"THE RETURN TO THE ROCK"
Vol III No. 9
THE RETURN TO THE ROCK
Corregidor is to Manila bay what a fuse is to a bomb.
If the fuse doesn’t work; the bomb is a dud.
The Japs hoped to turn Manila
bay into a dud for the Americans by keeping Corregidor. At best they thought
they could keep it indefinitely. At worst, they were confident of inflicting
fearsome casualties on the American force that would come back to take it. Three
years before, after violent artillery shelling had pulverized its antiquated
fortifications, the Japs had assaulted the rock and had been handed 8,000
casualties by Gen. Wainwright’s troops in the first 15 hours. Now, in their
hands, it was a death trap – a kind of hell-hole where fanatical Japs love to
make a suicide stand – a massive tunneled rock with hundreds of caves and hiding
places that would give them a wall for their backs and a shelter for their heads
– the kind of place where they couldn’t be blasted out, where the enemy would
have to come and get them across the water and up the cliffs.
It was a fine gruesome
prospect, only the Americans didn’t want any of it. Instead of coming across the
water and working up, they started at the top and went down, and the Japs found
that their guns pointed in every direction except up, and that their tunnels and
caves faced the wrong way, and that shelters over their heads protected from
bombs, yes, but they also hid the Americans which was very bad. In fact
everything was very bad and couldn’t have been much worse as far as the Japs
were concerned. They put up effective resistance for only two weeks and all
6,000 plus of them were killed, except the 24 who were captured. Two hundred and
ten American soldiers lost their lives.
operation was the end product of 30 months’ development in the art of
triphibious warfare. All the tools and specialists of air, ground and
naval forces were pooled together to turn out a perfect job.
Corregidor return drama developed along the classic Allied pattern. With
enemy air and naval strength thoroughly knocked out by Navy carrier
forces and the Fifth Air Force, and with MacArthur racing toward Manila,
Corregidor, as a battlefield, was virtually isolated by 23 January , the
day Fifth Air Force bombers began neutralizing it and the neighboring
mutually supporting fortresses of Carabao, Caballo and Fort Drum. On 13
February, three days before D-Day, the Navy pitched in with shelling by
cruises and destroyers. With the enemy paralyzed and dazed, minesweepers
cleared the waters around Corregidor. After D-Day dawn bombing by
heavies, followed by A-20s, V Troop Carrier Command landed paratroops on
top of the smoking rock. They found only scattered opposition and set up
positions to cover amphibious forces arriving exactly two hours later.
Shortly thereafter reinforcements could get in without serious
opposition and from then on it was just an earth-quaking explosion at
Monkey Point as a group of Japs blew themselves up in a typical gesture
of defiant frustration.
The plan works.
Paratroops are in control of Topside. the first wave
of landing craft has unloaded at South Dock and all
except one boat are on the way out as the second
wave comes in. Smoke on the beach is probably from
The picture on the preceding pages indicates why it
was decided to invade Corregidor from the air. Obviously, the only
landing beach is in the vicinity of South Dock and obviously any troops
put ashore there would have a bottle-necked, murderous fight to reach
Topside. An air landing was perilous and problematic but it was the only
alternative to slaughter.
feasibility of the paratroop landing on Topside was predicated on two
assumptions. The first was that it would catch the Japs flatfooted –
below ground and waiting patiently for the amphibious assault. The
second was that a pre-invasion air-naval bombardment, carried right up
to the first paradrop, would drive any Topside Japs to cover long enough
for the troops to hit the ground and consolidate their position.
One of warfare's most thrilling
scenes unfolds as paratroops of 503rd Regiment descend in
bomb-shattered grove beyond the swimming pool U.S. officers
used before Pearl Harbor.
assumptions were correct. The first two lifts of the 503rd Parachute
Regimental Combat Team found so little opposition that the third lift
went to the rock by boat to avoid drop casualties.
amphibious landing at South Dock, covered by air bombardment and fleet
units firing into Jap positions at point blank range, was carried out by
units of the 3rd Battalion,
Thereafter, the two forces on shore, one on Topside and one at South
Dock, concentrated on joining up, while air and naval units operated "on
call" to blow up strongpoints. Once this rendezvous had been
accomplished and supply lines had been secured, the battle for
Corregidor settled down to the ugly nauseating business of wiping out
the cornered Japs. Mortars, flame throwers and 75mm guns kept them holed
up, and demolition crews sealed them underground. Even then, they were
dangerous. Our worst casualties of the campaign came from the suicide
explosions of entombed Japs.
The text is reproduced from the Vol III No. 9 (Sept-Oct 1945) edition
of IMPACT, the Army Air Forces' Confidential Picture History of World