LANDING ON CORREGIDOR,
FEBRUARY 1945
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Homer Bigart

 

 

 


 

The invasion fleet heads towards Corregidor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The traffic wasn't only one way

 

 

 

The third wave hits the beaches while the first two withdraw.

Landing on Corregidor
February 1945
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Corregidor Invaders Battle Way Ashore in Hail of Enemy Bullets

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Reporter With Them Tells How Machine Guns Raked Landing Craft and Men Fought Up Beaches to Make Contact With Paratroops

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Homer Bigart,
New York Herald Tribune

Corregidor, Feb. 16, 1945 – For the first 280 yards, as we made our way in a landing craft toward Corregidor, everything went well. Emboldened, we began sticking our heads up over the side. Lieut. Col. Edward M. Postletwaite of Chicago, commanding the Third Battalion of the 34th Infantry Regiment of the 24th Division, was sittng calmly on top of a truckload of ammunition.

Ahead, in the narrow gap between “topside,” the rocky plateau on which American paratroopers had landed earlier, and Malinta Hill we could see how dreadfully complete was the destruction effected by naval guns. A little village where Philippine Scouts oofficers and thei wives once resided was completely obliterated. Nothing remained of depots and warehouses but a twisted rubble of steel. The place was ghostly.

On the right was the gaunt framework of the dock from which Gen. Douglas escaped on the night of March 10, 1942, in a PT boat operated by Lieut. (now lieutenant commander) John D. Bulkeley, 58 days before Lieut. Gen. Jonathan M. Wainwright, who remained in command at Corregidor, surrendered.

We were brginning to think this was another Marivales. Yesterday the tip of Bataan Peninsula had fallen without a shot. But this was to be different.

The toughness of any landing should be gauged by the casualty reports. Here at Corregidor, where mopping up continues, our casualties were certainly not excessive considering the risk involved. But when men are killed or wounded directly beside you then the thing becomes very personal and hard to write about with any degree of dispassionate appraisal.

Somewhere along Breakwater Point cliff the Japanese had trundled a 40-caliber machine gun to t he mouth of a small cave, and they opened fire on the craft directly below, Our boat was nearest shore and we caught the fusillade.

Bullets bit into the armor. We grovelled in the slimy bottom near the ramp, keeping as much distance as possible between ourselves and the ammunition truck. There we lay in a close huddle during the long minute the Japanese gave us exclusive attention.

On my right, a doughoy suddenly raised the bloody stumpt of his right hand. An instant later, a soldier squatting next to him toppled dead, A bullet had gone through his back and out through his chest. The horrible tearing power of machine-gun bullets was brought home to us for the first time.

The craft came to a jolting halt. Down came the ramp and we scampered ashore, diving for cover behind a knocked out tank.

Bullets sang against its blackened hulk, ricocheting with a vicious twang. For one rantic second we couldn’t tell the direction of the fire – there is nothing morefutile than lying on the wrong side of protective cover.

We knew about the gun on Breakwater Point, but this stuff seemed to be coming from a nest of pillboxes midway up Malinta Hill.

Richard G. Harris of the United Press and I decided to stay put. I managed to gauge a shallow foxhole in the rubble and Harris pressed himself against the shattered read of the tank.

There was a quick slamming blast. Chunks of concrete pelted us, and instantly the tank and the group surrounding it melted in a cloud of dust. When the dust cleared I looked around. A mortar shell had burst 20 feet to my left and a jagged fragment sailing over my foxhole instantly killed a soldier lying immediately to the right.

That was enough. I loped to a big shell crater and stayed there until things quieted.

Postlethwaite’s men were scattered from hell to breakfast. That was natural. The beach was too hot for any attempt at organization. The doughboys raced for cover wherever they could find it.

Rocket ships had churned the beach but failed to expode the mines. We saw two tanks and a duck (amphibious truck) disabled by mines. Then two jeeps loaded with mortar ammunition were hit by an antitank gun. Through the rest of the morning exploding ammunition was an added menace.

During a lull, I crept along a stone wall to Postlethwaite’s shellhole command post (field headquarters). The radio operator, Joe Princiotta of 905 Avenue St. John, the Bronx, was in contact with the paratroopers. They had just staved off a “banzai charge” in sanguinary fighting and were  now advancing down “topside,”

The two forces met midway up the slope shortly before noon. [The paratroopers of the 503d Parachute Regiment had landed about 8 A.M. and the ground troops about two hours later. ] Meanwhile Postlethwaite’s K and L Companies under Lieut. Lewis F. Stearns and Capt. Frank D. Centanni stormed Malinta Hill, clearing a few snipers from the crest. The tunnels in the hill had been completely sealed by the landslides during the prelanding bombardment.

The whole island, particularly “topside” was desolated. The great barracks, three stories high and 1,300 feet long, seemed intact at a distance, but drawing near we could see it pitted and gutted, a mere shell, like Cassino Abbey in Italy. We saw no trace of the batteries of disappearing guns of 1899 vintage the formed the chief armament of Corregidor. (Feb. 19, 1945).

Homer Bigart
New York Herald Tribune