"UNASSAILABLE MONJA"
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Paul F. Whitman

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The next approach near Wheeler Point and Battery Monja  occurs on 21 February, 1945, the sixth day on the island. The Second Bn. is tasked to clear  the northwest end of Corregidor right down to the sea. On this day, "D" Co. will advance down through Cheney Ravine and then go north on the beach to contact "E" Company moving south on the beach from James Ravine. "F" Company will patrol in the same area between "D" and "E" Companies on the high ground up to the cliffs, overlooking the beach. The companies are to "clean out the caves" and otherwise clear their areas of the enemy.

"D" Company, now reduced by casualties to only about eighty men, enter the beach through the notch in the cliffs at the ravine's base.  A thousand yards to the south is the massive Wheeler Point, but their orders today are to turn north, to link up with "E" Co. at Rock Point. It is impossible to move quickly along the narrow rocky beach and when they draw fire from a sea cave at the base of the cliffs, the troopers scatter and try to take advantage of what little cover there may be.  Private Brady tries to find a better firing position behind a 500 lb bomb standing upright in the shallows. but is killed.  A grenade attack wounds Lt. Buchanan, the "D" Company commander, when a Japanese inside the cave picks it up and lobs it back to him. The cave is cleared nonetheless. The wounded are withdrawn by a landing craft to Bottomside and the rest of the company retraces their steps up Cheney Ravine for days end.

John Lindgren writes in great detail of this patrol in "The Attack on Battery Monja February 21, 1945" though strictly the attack does not approach Wheeler Point. Bill Calhoun writes a comprehensive summary of "E" and "F" Companies movements of that day.

The initial land attack directly against Battery Monja occurs on  23rd February from the east, by "E" Company along the South Shore Road.

Their approach is limited by the nature of the road, cut into the cliffs approximately one third of the way up the 300 foot cliffs. In some areas, the road deteriorates to little more than a track. With near vertical cliffs on either side of the road, "E" Company cannot  concentrate sufficient force at the head of their attack to overcome withering Japanese defensive fire.  There is no supporting fire from the naval taskforce. Approaching within several yards of the first Monja tunnel entrance, the attackers, delayed by heavy opposition and hindered by dwindling ammunition and the prospects of losing daylight, must withdraw.  Four men were killed that day. It was not a good day for "Easy".

Originally written just a few months after the attack as part of the official history of "E" Company, 503d PRCT,  Don Abbott has revised and updated the details of "E" Company Attack On Battery Monja, 23 February 1945"  for Heritage Bn. 

There is another account of this attack, written in 1958 by Hudson Hill,  "E" Company's Commanding Officer at the time of the 23 February attack, which differs significantly from Abbott's account. 

 

Abbots' account is to be preferred, and the reasons for this are discussed in detail in "The Lost Road" by Bill Calhoun and this author. Hill's account is annexed to "The Lost Road"  and cannot be accessed separately, as the authors believe it is not good history and should not stand alone. It is included only as an adjunct to the article which illustrates and discusses its limitations.  Consequently, it should never be read except with the warnings of "The Lost Road" clearly in mind.

The following morning, the 24th, "D" Co. is sent towards Monja from the opposite direction, tasked with cleaning out the caves between the base of Cheney Ravine and Wheeler Point.  Limited by almost vertical cliffs on their left, and a  narrow rocky beach, the three platoons are mingled as they advance slowly towards Wheeler Point by a loose scrimmage line.  Suddenly they come under a massive fusillade of machine gun and sniper fire from obscured positions on the cliffs above and in front of them. Nine troopers fall, and it is only the withdrawal off the beach to two LCMs that had spotted a smoke grenade go off in a pre-arranged signal for distress, which saves the day.

The story of this attack is told in Tony Sierra's first person account, "The Attack on Battery Monja, 24 February 1945" and in Robert B. Lewis' History of the 2nd Engineer Special Brigade. The day ends, in Calhoun's words,  with a "hypnosis of sheer exhaustion."

On 25 February, the 2nd Platoon "E" Company retraces its steps along the road to recover the bodies of those killed the previous day. Continued shelling in the area has brought down more of the cliffs, and neither Ball's or Jandro's body can be found. The area is still under Japanese control and 2d platoon do not tarry long. They pick up Robinson’s body, which had started to decompose, and take it to the morgue at the old post cinema.

Monja remained unconquered, which makes it one of the most extraordinary, yet little-known  places in the Pacific War. After the 503d were withdrawn from the island, the 34th Infantry Regiment attempted to “mop-up” the Wheeler Point, without success.

 

 

Thereafter, attentions are turned elsewhere on the island, and no direct attack is made on Battery Monja by the 503d, until 1989, when John Lindgren and Don Abbott complete the task started 44 years previously.

  

 

 

 

         

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Last Updated: 29-03-11