as it is to prove a negative, none of the paratroopers I have spoken
with knew of any man who landed directly into the water - though
several found it safer to be picked up at water's edge, or from the
water, than climb the
sheer cliffs through Japanese held territory. Battery Monja is concealed
in a casemate above the saddle of Wheeler Point. Whilst the 6-inch gun
may have been silenced by 16 February 1945, the Battery would never be
breached by men of the 503d PRCT - until 1989. (Enlargement CD-Rom
Paul F. Whitman
Heritage Bn. contains links to several articles about the attempts to reduce
into submission, and this article seeks to put them into sequence, and give them
The student of Corregidor's
history must do a little digging before discovering that despite a complete mastery of US forces
in both the air and the coastal waters around The Rock, and against a
preponderance of U.S. military assets on the ground and seas unmatched in modern
warfare, a small force of Japanese was able to hold out against all comers
until their voluntary surrender on 1 January 1946.
It's not an issue of pride to the U.S.
Army, I suppose, being unable to eliminate holdouts on Fortress
Corregidor - though it does speak well for an American practical military sensibility of
recognition that there must be limits upon applying men's lives towards a useless
tactical military objective.
On 1 January 1946, a group of twenty Japanese, well-fed and
in presentable dress uniforms, surrendered to a member of a US Graves
Registration Unit at Topside, Corregidor.
At the time, it was not known where they had been hiding, and
the prisoners weren't saying.
More than forty years later, a Japanese national was taken
into custody when apprehended digging at Wheeler Point. Assuring Corregidor's
authorities that he was not a treasure hunter, he claimed to be digging to
repatriate the bones of his wartime colleagues buried in that vicinity. He
was digging at Battery Monja.
incident, the story is told of a group of Japanese gathering the remains
of their Corregidor dead. The elderly men who were shown a newspaper clipping
with a picture of the "New Year's Day Twenty" and one, or maybe more of the men
got excited pointing at the picture, and them himself. Names and addresses were
Yet, even when, in the spirit of friendship and historic research these former
servicemen were approached by mail more than 40 years afterwards, they were
uniformly reticent to disclose the details of their survival as if, deep down,
they were still ashamed of being the survivors of a garrison of several
These men were amongst the Japanese survivors of Battery Monja, one of the few
installations in the Pacific War invaded but never conquered by forces intended specifically to eliminate their presence. Monja was within a mere two
hundred yards of the perimeter of U.S. power, yet remained unconquerable.
For that is
the little known claim to fame of Corregidor's Battery Monja - a
little-known but significant place in the history of the 503d PRCT, that
of Corregidor - and even in the history of the Pacific War, and the fortress
than never fell.
Whilst everywhere else in the Philippines, Japanese forces either stood,
defended and were ultimately destroyed, or were being pursued towards military
irrelevance in a constant cat and mouse games through increasingly remote areas,
Btty. Monja remained an unconquerable redoubt for a small group of Japanese
holdouts, able to resist everything that could be thrown at them.
Certainly by 8 March, when the 503d PRCT was
withdrawn from Corregidor to Mindoro, Btty. Monja was no longer militarily
bothersome. But it was still a "no go" area.
Monja was armed with two 155 mm GPF artillery pieces, capable of firing 17,000 yards. One
gun was sited on a Panama Mount inside a cut where the South Shore Road cut through
Wheeler Point. The other gun was also mounted on a Panama Mount and installed within a
the siege of Corregidor by the Japanese, the Battery was manned by Filipinos from
"G" Battery of the 92nd Coast Artillery, Philippine Scouts. It was under the
command of Lt. Emil Ulanowicz and was credited with sinking a Japanese barge
attempting to round the tip of Bataan, and thus from further discouraging
traffic beyond that point.
Shore Bombardment Off Corregidor
The details of the incidents involving the
USS Fletcher are courtesy of USS Fletcher Reunion Group. Visit their fine
The initial seaborne attack upon Btty. Monja was
during preparations for the January 16 landings.
USS Fletcher (DD-445) and USS
Hopewell (DD-681) were
attached to Task Unit 77.3.2 in the support of Task Group 78.3 in the
Manila Bay area which was making amphibious landings on Mariveles,
and would soon make the amphibious landing on Corregidor. Shore
bombardments of Corregidor had been taking place from dawn to dusk for over
three days, and on the morning of 14 February, the destroyers were part of a screen
for a number of minesweepers which had
been assigned to clear a pathway through the extensive minefields off
Bataan peninsula. Fletcher had been exploding mines cut from their moorings by
the minesweepers. Heading on a westerly course south of Corregidor,
Fletcher had come under fire from Japanese batteries on Caballo.
Turning sharply, she headed north to a position in Mariveles Harbour,
from where she fired on Japanese batteries at Los Cochinos
Point. At 1326 hrs, she took a hit from a 6-inch Japanese shore
battery on Corregidor, almost certainly Monja, killing most of the men in
the #1 turret, disabling the #2 turret and starting fires in the
ammunition storage compartments. Fletcher continued to fire as she
controlled damage, during which time
Watertender First Class Elmer Charles
Bigelow saved the boat by extinguishing fires in the fore magazine. In the confined
area of the compartment, the toxic fumes from his extinguisher would
ultimately become his cause of death by pneumonia. He was awarded the Medal of Honor
posthumously, one of two awarded during the Corregidor operation.
Minesweeper before Corregidor
destroyer laid smoke and moved in to help damaged YMS-48, and soon
received four hits, putting her battery control station out of commission.
Graphics courtesy of
(click to enlarge - CD only)
As the firefight continued, cruisers and destroyers of the shore
bombardment group in the area were drawn into the action.
One of the motor minesweepers in the North Channel between Corregidor and Bataan, YMS-48, sustained
several hits and began to sink. Hopewell and
Fletcher, now damaged, were ordered to assist. Hopewell,
which had been clearing obstructions from Mariveles Harbor with gunfire,
commenced to lay smoke and moved in to help the badly damaged YMS-48, where it
received four hits, putting her
battery control station out of commission, and causing 17 casualties.
Fletcher, having turned south out of Marivales Harbor, then headed north
towards the North Channel and the YMS-48, again coming under fire from the same
battery which had hit her earlier. Obscured by smoke, and with the
assistance of a cruiser-based spotter aircraft, Fletcher was able to pump
round after round into the area of a tunnel from where the fire was thought to
14 February 1945
Fletcher itself took on survivors from
the sinking minesweeper in the North Channel, coming under fire from
smaller guns along Corregidor's northern shoreline.
Graphics courtesy of
USS Fletcher Reunion Group.
Minefields at Corregidor
The mines were not of the "floating style" but were
tethered to the bottom and controlled from panels on Corregidor. Army-Navy
rivalry extended to separate minefields.
Men on the Fletcher could see Hopewell
withdrawing from the rescue scene with dead clearly visible upon its decks. Fletcher
herself took on survivors from the sinking
minesweeper in the North Channel, coming under fire from smaller guns
along Corregidor's northern shoreline. As she withdrew with six dead and
seven wounded, Fletcher sunk the minesweeper with gunfire at the
After counter-battery fire against the area from
where the shots had originated on Corregidor, with observation assistance of a
spotter aircraft, the large gun fell silent, and
attentions were drawn elsewhere.
Fletcher, with three of her five guns operable,
performed as required during the amphibious landings.
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e U . S . N .
a t C o
r r e g i d
F U R T H E R
R E A D I N G U S S F L E T C H E R (
D D - 4 4 5 )
The following correspondence
is edited. Read their full text by visiting The USS Fletcher Reunion
USS Fletcher (DD-445)
Official US Navy Photo
Fletcher Reunion Group.
is Paul Bigelow and I'm a major in the USAF at Hurlburt Field in FL (near Fort
Walton Beach). I'm trying to research some family history and came upon the
history of the USS Fletcher (my mother's maiden name). The reference to Elmer
Bigelow is the first piece I've been able to trace in my research for the USS
Bigelow (DD-942). Can you provide additional details, if available, of Elmer C.
Bigelow who died during the gunfire attack on 14 Feb 45 of Corregidor? Thank
you in advance for your time and consideration.
PAUL T. BIGELOW,
I was aboard
the USS Fletcher, Feb. 14, 1945 and remember the activities of the day very
well. I personally did not know Elmer Bigelow, he was in a different division
and with over 300 men aboard, we would see a shipmate and only know him from a
smile. With a "24 hour day" while underway, only a third of the ship's crew
would be needed at their designated work places. At General Quarters, everyone
would have their assigned "battle station" be it engine or boiler rooms, on the
bridge or to the gun mounts with their support personnel and to the various
"damage control group" centers. located around the ship. These "damage control"
men were experienced, having special tools including portable water pumps for
using sea water in case of fire and the many duties they may be required to do
in an emergency. I think Elmer was in this type of unit and why he was there,
ready to put out the fire in the ammunition storage compartment.
may find it interesting to know that for three days prior to the action you are
interested in, our task-force of cruisers and destroyers were firing shells at
Corregidor Island's steep cliffs, using our five (five inch) mounts from dawn to
dusk. Retired 30 miles north to Subic Bay, our advance base, where we watched
movies on the bow of the ship, using #1 enclosed mount sideways with its side
door open where the projector was placed so it would be above our heads. Buckets
upside down was a very common seat. The next morning it was down the coast and
back to bombarding Corregidor. During these days, there was no return fire from
the island. Our range finders being powerful, could see the tunnels in the
cliffs, covered with removable brush, where a gun emplacements may be, but these
guns were likely on tracks, rolled back from the entrance and probably not
damaged. On February 14th. another destroyer and our ship were ordered to blow
up mines which were floating in the water. A Navy (yard) mine sweeper earlier,
had cut their cables from "anchors". Moving very slowly as each shell fired
did not explode a mine and with Corregidor being silent, It was a surprise to
see shells landing in the water near our ship and they certainly were not coming
from our sister ship.
reversed our engines and had backed up about a hundred feet when a shell from
Corregidor hit our ship a hundred feet forward from my "battle station".
I will always
believe I was spared.
The shell cut
open the deck into the chief's living quarters below and put big holes in #1 gun
(where most were killed) and disabled the use of #2 gun. Below decks were the
ammunition storage compartments for the damaged guns and there, a fire had
started by the exploding shell. Elmer's quick action in putting out the fire in
a confined area without thinking of himself, and taking the time in using the
normally used breathing equipment, saved our ship from terrible damage if not
losing the whole ship with many fatalities.
The crew of the
USS Fletcher to this day believe this to be true.
We had just
been hit by the enemy's shell, when, within minutes, orders came for our ship to
rescue men from a sinking mine sweeper which was much closer to Corregidor. As
we headed for the stricken craft, we knew there was an active gun just waiting
for our ship to come closer. Then, out of the "blue", a plane flying just above
the waves with a plume of white smoke trailing hid our ship from the island
completely. In those few minutes till the smoke cleared, our ship "regrouped"
and with the help of this spotter plane, (from a cruiser) our guns were able to
fire round after round into the tunnel where, we were told, by the plane's
pilot, the gun responsible for our ship's damage, was located and destroyed it.
At this same
time, my gun captain, had been ordered to help with rescue work at the damaged
area. I was standing next to him so he handed his earphones to me. (Our 40mm gun
had not been used in this operation,) While our ship was picking up the mine
sweeper's survivors, orders came from the bridge telling me to take our crew to
another 40mm gun near the bow. Men from this forward gun had gone to help in
the rescue of our casualties. After reporting all present at our new gun
position, I received orders to have our crew fire at the yard mine sweeper along
the water line, This was to sink it so it wouldn't keep floating and possibly
land on the beach for the enemy to board. We heard later there were several
Hopewell had originally gone to the rescue of this stricken craft but enemy
shells landing on the destroyer had killed many men, it stopped the rescue
efforts and had to retreat, passing us with its dead readily visible.
We returned to
Subic Bay, transferred our six dead and seven wounded to a destroyer tender
(repair ship) and prepared for the next morning when paratroopers would land on
top of Corregidor.
The next day
our ship was in position and participated as required, even if we only had three
guns available, if needed, we would use them as if there were five.
It was also
the day Elmer Bigelow died from double pneumonia, the result of breathing only
smoke too long. His heroic action was noted. After the war, President Truman
gave his mother the Congressional Medal of Honor, posthumously. For conspicuous
gallantry at the risk of his life.
USS Elmer Bigelow DD 942, was named in his honor.
another destroyer, USS La Vallette (DD-448) was ordered to finish firing at the
still floating mines in the area we had left earlier, but the ship hit an uncut
mine, opening a huge hole in its starboard side. It nearly sank with its bow
nearly level with the waves. A second destroyer, USS Radford (DD 446) was
dispatched to rescue it, but then, also hit a mine in the same forward fireroom,
starboard side as the La Vallette. The casualties for the Radford were less when
the Captain had already ordered all unnecessary men normally below, to stay on
deck. The Radford was able to tow the La Vallette the 30 miles back to Subic
Bay, mentioned earlier. Both were given enough repairs to handle the trip to a
West Coast shipyard for restoration.
( The USS Fletcher Reunion
Group contains the comprehensive Corregidor Action Report)
F U R T H E R
R E A D I N G U S S H O P E W E L L ( D D -
6 8 1 )
The following correspondence
is edited. Read their full text by visiting Hopewell DD-681 Association
USS Hopewell (DD-681)
photo courtesy Patrick Clancey's
Hopewell was a Fletcher Class Destroyer,
and virtually identical to the USS Fletcher.
My uncle, William Earl Parrish MM3, USNR
was killed by Japanese shore batteries while rescuing survivors on
minesweeper YMS-48 that had been hit. He died in action on Feb 14, 1945
during rescue attempts at Corregidor. He was buried in military cemetery
I am looking for any information on shipmates who knew him or about his death.
He was Electricians Mate 3rd Class
Anthony Scott Parrish
My name is James D. Hunter . I was on the Hopewell when it was hit
off of Corregidor. I knew Rebel Parrish very well although I don't
remember why we called him Rebel. We had been shelling Corregidor for days
and the bombers had dropped hundreds of bombs on the island and it seemed
impossible that anyone could still be alive. A minesweeper attempted to
enter Manila Bay but it had to enter between Corregidor and the Bataan
Peninsula as the rest of the entrance was too shallow for ships to enter.
As we watched there was a big puff of green smoke and the minesweeper was
hit by Jap shore batteries. Our stupid Captain had us rush full speed into
the narrow channel to rescue survivors. The Japs opened up on us and we
were severely damaged. Rebel Parish was at his battle station on a deck
around the forward mast. I was standing below just outside of the gangway
leading to the mess hall. I was an RBA (rescue breathing
apparatus) repair party man. A shell hit the forward mast where Rebel was
stationed. The mast was surrounded by cork life nets. I was blown backwards
into a hatchway leading to the mess hall and landed on an Electricians mate
who had a huge hunk of shrapnel embedded in his skull. Don't recall his
name. My eyes and face were full of cork and as soon as I scrambled out and
cleared my eyes I looked up to see how Rebel was and saw he was hanging
there obviously dead. The end of this story is we didn't rescue anyone and
lost quite a few shipmates.
I personally think the Captain should have gotten a reprimand or
court action for rushing into a narrow channel without a smoke screen when
it was obvious that there were still live Jap shore batteries that had
their guns trained on that narrow channel. Incidentally I received a
citation for bravery and cool courage from Admiral Kincaid after this
action took place and would gladly trade it for just one of those who so
needlessly lost their lives.