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"The Philippine Scouts were superb.  My enlisted Scouts were far superior to Philippine Army officers and even more superior to Philippine Army enlisted men.  The Scouts were brave, dependable, willing to work until they dropped from exhaustion.  Completely committed to doing their duty.  I cannot speak highly enough of the scouts I knew." 

 

 

 

The Best of The Best

(91st Coast Artillery, Philippine Scouts)

 

A Short History 

by

George Munson

 

 

MISSION. 

The 91st Coast Artillery (P.S.), here after referred to as the 91st, was one four Coast Artillery Regiments permanently stationed in the Philippine Islands.  Their collective mission was to deny the enemy access to Manila and Subic Bays.

 

THE BEGINNING. 

In 1922, the U.S. Army reorganized the 15 Philippine Scout Coast Artillery Companies.  They were re-designated as batteries and formed into two new regiments, the 91st and the 92d.  The 91st was organized at midnight, June 30, 1922 and received 8 of the 15 batteries as shown below:
 

C.A.C. Company redesignated as

Battery

Location

281st

HQ

Ft. Mills

262nd

A

Ft. Mills

284th

B

Ft. Mills

277th

C

Ft. Hughes

279th

D

Ft. Hughes

286th

E

Ft. Hughes

276th

F

Ft. Frank

285th

G

Ft. Frank

 

By 1928, Batteries C, and D had been transferred to Ft. Mills. Battery E followed a few years later.  In the early 1930ís, Ft. Wint was put on a caretaker status and all but a few members of Battery G were transferred to Ft. Mills.   Thereafter, all batteries, except Battery F, remained on Ft. Mills, until October 1941 when Battery C was transferred to Ft. Wint.

 

PERSONNEL. 

All enlisted personnel were Philippine Scouts.  Most officers were members of the U.S. Army, and served two year tours in the Philippines.  Nine men were commissioned into the Philippine Scouts as Coast Artillery officers.  Two were Americans and seven were Filipinos.  They rotated in and out of the 91st, 92d, and staff assignments.  Two, James Smith and Francis Wilson, were former American Coast Artillery sergeants.  In 1912, Estaban Dalao became the first Filipino to be commissioned into the Philippine Scouts.  He was followed by six others,  two of which, Jose Olivares and Bienvenido Alba, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and one, Pastor Martelino, graduated from the U.S. Military Academy.

Serving in the 91st was a great adventure for most American officers, and commanding Scouts was a stimulating experience.  The Scouts were well trained, superb soldiers of a different race and culture.  Most had served in their batteries for many years and knew their jobs thoroughly.  It was an honor and a privilege for them to be Scouts.  Their living conditions and health benefits on were better than those of the average civilian.  Scouts received one half the pay of their American counterparts of the same rank.  This inequity was never resolved and in later years caused some hard feelings.  Even so, their pay was above the average and enabled them to live better than their civilian peers.

Being a Scout was frequently a family affair.  They served in the 91st with their cousins, uncles and brothers.  It was not uncommon for the son of a Scout to join his father as a member of the Regiment.  Batteries were generally segregated by province and language.  The first sergeants were the battery recruiting officers.  They selected new recruits from their own province and or from those who spoke the same dialect.  This provided for a more harmonious battery life.

Single enlisted men lived in the Middleside Barracks.  Married men lived with their families in Barrio Concepcion.  Married men stationed on Ft. Frank lived in Barrio Calumpan, a short distance across the water from the Fort, on the shore of the Pico de Loro Hills.

Officers lived a life of luxury, with servants and an inexpensive cost of living.  Social life revolved around the Corregidor Club with swimming, golf, tennis, dining and dancing.  The normal 4 to 5 hour workday provided ample time to pursue social life and hobbies. Officers were normally provided one month a year of detached service at the Army's rest camp, Camp John Hay in the cool mountain province. Many officers visited the southern islands and or took terminal leave and visited Japan, China, and or Indo-China at the end of their two-year tour.

 

TRAINING

The 91st had two different training periods, one for the dry season and one for the rainy season.  The annual training season began in September with the outdoor training season.  This started with small arms practice for qualification and requalification.  Beach defense maneuvers followed with the firing of machine guns, 37mm and 75mm guns.  These were followed by anti-alrcraft machine guns and sub-caliber training on their main weapons.  Right after Christmas, the pressure was on to complete the annual target practice and war condition period before the start of the rainy season.

There was great effort made to obtain an "excellent" for the annual target practice.  This was accomplished many times.  Individual batteries were in competition with all other Coast Artillery batteries to become the best battery in the Coast Artillery and win the Knox Trophy.  In 1932, Battery C won the Trophy and in 1937, Battery B took third place.  The Regiment was also in competition to be become the best regiment in the Coast Artillery, but it never won.

With the rainy season came the Garrison or indoor training season. This consisted of gunners instruction and indoor classes such as leadership and map reading.

 

SPORTS

Sports played a very important part in the life of the 91st. Supervised athletic periods were provided for in regimental training schedules.  These provided needed exercise, and instilled loyalty and pride within the batteries and Regiment.  The 91st had inter-battery leagues for baseball basketball, softball, duck pin, ten pin (bowling) and volleyball.  The battery with the overall best sports record for the year won the coveted  Athletic Supremacy Trophy.  The best players from these sports, plus the best swimmers, boxers and track stars were formed into Regimental teams to compete against the 92d for the Post Championships in the Scout Division.  This competition formed a great sports rivalry between the 91st and the 92d.   The Post Championship Teams went to Manila to compete for the Philippine Department Championships.  In 1936, Private Fidel Binsol of Battery E became the amateur light-weight champion of the Philippines.

 

BATTERY ASSIGNMENTS

Batteries had a wide range of assignments.  They manned their primary gun batteries and had secondary assignments consisting of other gun batteries, beach defense, anti-aircraft machine guns, assisting the Mine Group and performing fort maintenance duties. Prior to 1941, the Regiment never had enough personnel to perform all duties simultaneously.

The 91st had two battalions.  The First Battalion was the Mine Group and consisted of Batteries A and G.  The Second Battalion was the "gun battalion" and included Batteries B, C, D, E, and F.  Primary assignments during the 1930s were are as follows:

*  HQ and HQ Battery performed administrative duties, supplied MPs for the Provost Marshall, and electricians and searchlight operators for Ft. Hughes.

*  Battery A had three primary duties:  maintain the mine equipment and cables, lay and operate mine fields, and man Battery Martin (two 155mm GPF guns).

*  Battery B manned Battery Morrison (two 6-inch guns) and Battery James (four 3-inch guns).

*  Battery C changed its primary assignment during this decade.  It manned half of Battery Geary (four 12-Inch mortars) then switched to manning Battery Morrison (two 6-inch guns), Battery James  (four 3-inch guns) and mobile 155 mm GPF guns.

*  Battery D manned half of Battery Geary (four 12-inch mortars). Although being stationed on Ft. Mills, it was also responsible for manning Batteries Greer and Crofton (one 14-inch gun each) on Ft. Frank

*    Battery E manned Battery Grubbs (two 10-inch guns)

*    Battery F manned four 155mm GPF guns and four searchlights on Ft. Frank

*  Battery G shared the mine duties with Battery A and manned Battery Ramsey (two 6-inch guns)

 

PREPARATIONS FOR WAR

The Army started making changes when it became apparent that the U.S. might get involved in a war with Japan.  Training was intensified.  It was decided to turn most of the Second Battalion into an anti-aircraft battalion.  Battery B became the search light battery.  Batteries C and E became anti-aircraft batteries, each manning four 3-Inch anti-aircraft guns.  This decision was partially rescinded.  Battery D turned in its anti-aircraft guns, and built, then manned Battery Stockade (four 155mm GPF guns on Panama Mounts) in the summer of 1941.

In early 1941, Congress authorized the Army to increase the number of Scouts.   The 91st received its share, 143 new recruits, bringing the total number of Scouts to 763.  Between August 1940 and October 1941, the 91st received a new Commanding Officer and 41 new officers. Lt. Colonel Joseph Kohn was elevated from being a battalion commander to replace Lt. Colonel Willis Shipman as Commanding Officer.  Major Floyd Mitchell became the new Executive Officer.  Seven officers and a number of Scouts were placed on detached service to train the Philippine Army.   Officer promotions came very rapidly.  By the time of the surrender, many had been promoted two grades.

The Mine Group laid two Army controlled mine fields between Corregidor and Bataan, and helped the Navy lay a contact mine field from Corregidor to Ft. Frank.  In October, Battery C moved to Ft. Wint and Battery F moved to Ft. Frank to provide anti-aircraft protection. HO Battery transferred a 57 man detachment to Ft. Frank to handle administrative duties and to operate a searchlight.

In the afternoon of November 28, 1941, the Harbor Defenses of Manila and Subic Bay was ordered to quickly man all alert positions. The 91st was ordered to have its batteries at their mobilization positions by noon Saturday November 29, 1941.  At about 3:00 PM December 8th, the Regiment received the message that "Hostilities between the United States and Japan commenced this morning."

 

WARTIME EVENTS

*     HQ and HQ Battery  moved out of Middleside Barracks, after the first air raid (December 29), into a group of tents on Way Hill.  The 57 man detachment remained on Ft. Frank.  In addition to his duties as Commanding Officer, Colonel Kohn also commanded Group 4 (all medium caliber guns that fired toward Bataan).

*          The Regimental Band was commanded by Captain Phillip Lehr. Master Sergeant Inocencio Sigua was the Band Leader and Technical Sergeant Aurelio Santos was the Assistant Band Leader.  The band lost all of instruments during the first air raid and was unable to play afterwards.

*          The Mine Group.  On Christmas Eve, Lt. Colonel Englehart arrived with General MacArthur's staff from Manila.  Because he was one of the Army's top mine officers, he was assigned to command the Mine Group. He quickly discovered that the two controlled mine fields were defective.  Parasites had burrowed into the cables causing electrical shortages.  He had the minefields removed and the cables replaced.

*          Battery A was commanded by Captain Richard Smith, a Calvary officer.  Gervasio Estorba was the First Sergeant.  It operated the minefield between Ft. Mills and Monja Island and helped man the mine casemate.  It also manned Battery Stockade (two 155mm GPF guns) plus some 75mm beach defense guns.  The Battery abandoned the fixed positions at Battery Martin and moved the guns up the hill to the Stockade.  Thus this Battery was renamed Battery Stockade.  It did extensive firing at Japanese targets on Bataan.

*          Battery G was commanded by Major Erven Sommerfield.  It operated the minefield between Ft. Mills and Bataan and helped man the mine casemate.

*          The Second Battalion was commanded by Lt. Colonel Mitchell.

*          Battery B was commanded by Captain William Owen then by Captain Bert Backstrom.  Mateo Melliza was the First Sergeant.  It manned Batteries Rockpoint (two 155mm GPF guns) Hanna (two 3-inch guns) and James (four 3-inch guns).  The Battery was primarily responsible for protecting the minefields.  On February 19, 1942, Battery James was detached and manned by Battery B, 1st Coast Artillery Philippine Army. On April 9, Batteries Rockpoint and Hanna fired at eight enemy barges entering Mariveles Harbor.  Battery Rockpoint was credited with sinking two.  On April 12, Captain Owens was wounded and replaced by Captain Backstrom.  Throughout the rest of April and first five days in May, Battery B engaged in frequent artillery duals with Japanese batteries. 1st Lieutenant Ek, of the 88th F.A., was assigned to the Battery after Bataan surrendered.  He was given command of one gun from Battery Rockpoint, which was moved from its Panama Mount to a position eastward, just off the North Shore Road, near the rifle range.

*   Battery C was commanded by Captain John Gulick.  His father was Chief of the Coast Artillery for several years during the 1930ís. Guardalope Datoc was the First Sergeant.  The Battery was given the code name Cebu and remained on Ft. Wint until the Fort was abandoned on December 26, 1941.  It moved to San Jose Barrio, Bataan, near Dinalupihan.  Several days later, it moved near Bataan Field and was attached to the 2d Battalion, 60th Coast Artillery.  On January 7, it moved to Cemetery Ridge and on February 7, it moved about 100 yards further west.  During this time, the Battery engaged Japanese planes attacking Corregidor, Mariveles and the airfields under construction. It shot down two planes while on Ft. Wint, two planes at Dinalupihan, one plane at Bataan Field and 10 while near Cemetery Ridge for a total of 15 confirmed kills.  When Bataan Surrendered,  the Battery escaped to Corregidor.  It was assigned to man Batteries Morrison and Grubbs. After several artillery duals, both of these Batteries were put out of commission.  Then Battery C was assigned two 155mm GPF guns located by the Quartermaster warehouses on Topside.  One gun was defective, but the second fired a significant number of rounds at Japanese artillery on Bataan.

*   Battery D was commanded by Captain Jerome Byrne.  Benito Cabal was the First Sergeant.  The Battery manned Battery Sunset.  Although originally designed to fire seaward, the four guns of Battery Sunset were turned around to fire at Japanese targets on Bataan.   One gun was destroyed during the first Japanese bombardment from Bataan.  On 15 April 1942, one gun was removed for use as a roving battery.  It was called Battery Wright, after its commander, 1st Lt. John Wright Jr., Battery D's Executive Officer.  The remaining two guns were later removed for Battery Wright, one at a time.  1st Lt. Wright had his CP on the third floor of Topside Barracks, where he spotted Japanese artillery on Bataan.  On several occasions, he directed fire on Japanese Artillery batteries firing on Battery Chicago (two 3-inch AA guns) and silenced their bombardment.  He later wrote that "The Philippine Scouts were superb.  My enlisted Scouts were far superior to Philippine Army officers and even more superior to Philippine Army enlisted men.  The Scouts were brave, dependable, willing to work until they dropped from exhaustion.  Completely committed to doing their duty.  I cannot speak highly enough of the scouts I knew."

* Battery E was commanded by Major Joe East.  Francisco Baraan was the First Sergeant.  It was given the code name Ermita and provided the primary anti-aircraft defense for Ft. Frank.  Japanese aircraft seldom attacked the Fort, but the Battery did shoot down two planes.  The ;primary concern was the Japanese artillery that shelled the Fort from Cavite Province and later from the Pico de Loro Hills.  Two anti-aircraft guns were lost to artillery and the gun crews were forced to live in the tunnels when not on duty.

*   Battery F was commanded by Captain Robert White and later by Captain John Davis Jr.  Delfin Pracale was the First Sergeant.  Its primary assignments were Battery Kohler (eight 12-inch mortars) and three 75mm beach defense guns.  The Battery was engaged in frequent artillery duals with the Japanese.  The Japanese had a huge advantage in that they had forward observers in the Pico de Loro Hills overlooking the Fort.  Battery F had to fire blind, because it had no observers watching the Japanese.  Several attempts were made to send personnel to locate the Japanese artillery.  They were unsuccessful. In January, a mortar shell from Battery Kohler burst just outside the pit,  killing one Scout and wounding six, including Captain White. 1st Lieutenant Davis was promoted to Captain and transferred from Battery Hanna to command Battery F.  On February 15, the Battery destroyed a Japanese patrol with its 75mm guns.  This patrol had attacked a repair party that was fixing pipelines from Calumpan Dam, the source of the Fortís fresh water.

 

THE SURRENDER

After four months of half rations and many artillery and aerial bombardments, the men of the 91st continued to fight, but their battle was at an end.  Upon receiving the order to surrender, the men of the 91st destroyed their equipment and prepared for incarceration.  Personnel on Corregidor were sent to the 92nd Garage where they were kept with little food and water for 15 days.  Ft.. Frank personnel  were taken by boats to Wawa, about 35 miles south of Corregidor to repair a pier.  They received no food or water for several days.  On 24 May, all personnel were taken to Manila and forced to march to Bilibid Prison.  Then they were shipped to Cabanatuan and later some were shipped to Japan.  The Japanese released the Filipinos in July and sent them home to die.  Many recovered and served honorably in guerilla units until the end of the war.  The officers did not fare as well.  Many were shipped to Japan and few survived the POW camps and  the hell ships.  Of the 49 officers assigned to the 91st when it surrendered, only about 13 survived the war.

 

THE END

The 91st was not reactivated after the war.  Air power made coast artillery obsolete.  On June 28, 1950, the Army disbanded the 91st.  Many of the survivors went on to have long and rewarding careers in the U.S. and Philippine Armies.

 

 

George Munson  is our premier authority on all issues relating to the Philippine Scouts in the defense of Manila Bay. He  is a military auditor stationed at Ft. Lewis. He lives at Bremerton, Washington. 
 

 

 ©2000 George Munson  - all rights reserved -

 

MORE READING ABOUT THE PHILIPPINE SCOUTS
THE PHILIPPINE-SCOUTS HERITAGE SOCIETY

 

SOURCES:

1. HQ Ninety First Coast Artillery (PS) Office of the Mine Group Commander, Fort Mills P.I. report of October 21, 1941

2.

3. HEADQUARTERS NINETY FIRST COAST ARTILLERY (PS) Fort Mills, P.I. letter of June 29, 1937 to The Engineer Officer, Philippine Department, Manila, P.I.

4. Col. E. Carl Englehart answer to my questionnaire, 1985 (?)

5. Phonecon:Fred Roth III, 15 November 1992