"THE RETURN TO THE ROCK"
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Vol III No. 9
(Sept-Oct 1945)
IMPACT



 

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THE RETURN TO THE ROCK

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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.

This fantastic 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.

The 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 land mines.

 

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.

The 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.

Both 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.

The 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, 34th Infantry.

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.

 


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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 War II.
 

 

 

         

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