"THE RETURN TO THE ROCK"
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Vol III No. 4
(April 1945)
IMPACT



 

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RECAPTURE OF CORREGIDOR

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Parade ground at Corregidor, where U.S. soldiers passed in review during 40 years peace, becomes scene of battle triumph as paratroops descend for action
 

Corregidor was more than a military objective when we attacked it in February: the "Rock" had become an important symbol in American history as our last Pacific out post of any size to fall to the enemy in the early stages of the war.

The Japanese took Corregidor on 6 May 1942 after a fairly long seige of attrition followed by landing operations in which their casualties amounted to 5,000 killed and 3,000 wounded in 15 hours. We recaptured the island nearly there years later in perfectly coordinated triphibious assault in which our losses were only 136 killed and 531 wounded.

The Japanese opened their attack on Corregidor with an aerial bombardment on 29 December 1941, five days after General MacArthur moved his headquarters there, but the heaviest attacks throughout the siege were from artillery based on Cavite, and later, on Bataan. When the last American troops on Bataan surrendered on 9 April, the enemy was able to mass his artillery for an all-out shelling of the Rock and its antiquated batteries.

Although the network of tunnels through Corregidor’s hills afforded protection to the American garrison, much of the defense activity had to be carried on in the open. By 4 May, many of the guns had been knocked out, the water supply was low, and casualties were mounting. Particularly heavy shellfire prologued the Japs’ attempt to land the next night: their officers later admitted that they had been amazed at the savage resistance, which accounted for the sinking of about two-thirds of their barges. The American losses during those fifteen hours before the final surrender on 6 May were from 600 to 800 dead and 1,000 wounded.

Paratroops land on "B" field, one of their two tiny drop zones. This one was edged by 500-foot cliffs, and some of the men went into the water; most of these were rescued by our small craft operating along the shores of the island.

When the time came to avenge that surrender, our air-land-sea team was perfectly conditioned by the long fight back from New Guinea. In December 1943, the softening up of Cape Gloucester, New Britain, before the Marine landings there, gave the Pacific theater a new verb for intense pre-invasion bombings – Gloucesterize.

The Gloucesterizing of Corregidor began on 23 January 1945, when heavy bombers dropped 595 tons on the Rock. Daily strikes by the AAF continued through 16 February, the day paratroops swung down from the sky onto the island, and extended another week, until most of the remaining Nips had been rooted out of ravines and caves. Preliminary figures for the 23 January – 24 February period show 2,028 effective sorties hitting Corregidor with 3,163 tons of bombs. The Navy began adding to the fireworks on 13 February, with cruisers and destroyers shelling from close to shore; on the following day, minesweepers began operating around the island. During all this time while the stage was being set for invasion, not a single enemy plane or naval vessel interfered with the proceedings. Then 16 February came, and after a sunrise attack by B-24s and an hour of low-altitude bombings and strafings by A-20s, the 503rd Parachute regiment began dropping out of C-47s of troop carrier units of FEAF. They came down on the western heights known as "Topside", while a beachhead was being established by elements of the 24th Infantry Division at San Jose on the east end of the island.

Three hours after leaving their Mindoro base, the 503rd Regiment paratroops were in possession of "Topside". They had a hard landing at the two tiny "go-point" areas, for a 16-18 knot wind sprang up as the planes came along, necessitating a change of timing in the jumpmasters’ counts.

The grueling air and naval softening up of the Rock had left the defending Japs dazed and scattered but they rallied, and for nearly two weeks isolated groups of them fought on with a suicidal frenzy. But several days before 1 March our forces were in possession of Corregidor, opening the finest harbor in the East to Allied shipping. More than 4,000 Japs were killed at Corregidor, and many more drowned while swimming away from the Rock. Others, estimated to be thousands, sealed themselves in the subterranean passages, and those who destroyed themselves made the island reverberate with underground explosions for many days afterward.

 


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Supplies and guns are dropped from C-47's to the airborne troops who, after landing in areas in "Topside" had knocked Japs off this dominant plateau

 

 

The text is reproduced from the Vol III No. 4 (April 1945)  edition of IMPACT, the Army Air Forces' Confidential Picture History of World War II.

 

 

 

 

         

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