The debris from constant bombardment gave Malinta Hill the appearance of a moonscape. On the western side, the fractured rock was more than fifty feet deep in places. The extent of the landslide which cut the south road, killing six men, can be seen. The hill is still so fractured that area is prone, even today, to landslides.















Malinta Hill  bisected Corregidor and prevented any Japanese reinforcements from moving towards Topside.






Targets on Call

Scheduled fires were requested daily through the liaison officer. Concentration lasting from ten minutes to an hour were fired in preparation for attacks on the day’s objectives. At night illumination schedule usually called for one or two star shells every few minutes until moonrise.

Targets of opportunity were worked all days. If we picked them up, we asked for the fire and got it. Often the ship picked them up. It was quite common to hear from the radio, “We see what appears to be a gun position at so-and-so. May we fire?” The Navy’s “may-we-fire” attitude was worth a million to us.

A good example of coordination on a target of opportunity happened one night. The normal night schedule was in progress, one ship firing star shells, the other on patrol. From the light of a star shell, the Malinta OP observer picked up a long column of heavily laden Japs coming out of the east entrance to Malinta Tunnel and moving down toward the eastern tip of the island. The telephone switchboard began to snap with business, SCR-300 radios began to talk and SCR-284 generators began to whir.

In the first three minutes, four machine guns were set to cover the column from head to tail, four 81mm. mortars were likewise shifted, star-shell illumination was increased to continuous lighting. All machine guns and mortars opened fire together. The initial bursts caused heavy casualties and pinned the Japs down. Seven minutes later, the destroyer on patrol had reached its firing position and had fired the initial round for adjustment. For the next thirty minutes, five-gun broadsides raked those monkeys from tip to tail. If any of the 150-odd Japs in that party lived through it, I don’t know how. Smooth teamwork that night saved the lives of quite a few Doughboys who would have to dig those Japs out of a hole the hard way later on. The Navy got a “well done” from us for that one and we weren’t just being polite.

In addition to scheduled fire and targets of opportunity, we had several special targets. The east entrance to the main tunnel was a tricky one. While the 503d was working on their Topside job, my 34th Infantry force held Malinta Hill. But there just weren’t enough troops to maintain control of the east tunnel entrance at night. At the same time, both Colonel George Jones, commanding officer of the 503d “Rock Force,” and I wanted to stop this nightly business of Japs bringing supplies out of the tunnel down to the east end of the island. We knew exactly where the entrance was, but we were leery about firing on it. It was right below our own men on the hill, but it couldn’t be seen from there for adjustment. Firing from our verbal descriptions wouldn’t do because it was hidden under heavy bushes and hard to locate. Our patrols visited the area almost daily, so we had several officers who had seen it. But there was no place on the island from which they could adjust fire on the tunnel entrance. The Navy gave us a simple solution by invitation. “Come out to the ship and show us,” they said, so we did.

Colonel Jones, Lieutenant John Bierne, who had patrolled the area, and I went out one afternoon. Bierne laid the fire control cross-hairs right on the entrance. The fire of one gun was adjusted and then the ship poured in a hundred more rounds of APC. Our patrol the next morning reported the entrance closed. Our visit to the destroyer not only accomplished an important mission, but fostered mutual esteem and friendship which made for even better teamwork in the future, if that were possible.

The coordination between the higher planning staffs of the Army and Navy is excellent and produced first-rate results. I’d like to see more opportunity for the men doing the job to get together and work out details. Skippers of destroyers and gunboats should have at least one conference with the staff of a landing team before the show, and several more during the show if possible.

I have probably made the Corregidor operation sound like a picnic. It wasn’t. The troopers took their share of casualties in sweating out the extermination of six thousand Japs and there are hundreds of stories to be told about it. It would, however, have cost many times the price in blood if Air, Navy, and Ground Forces coordination had not worked so magnificently. Anything we can do to foster and improve our teamwork will always be of prime value in finishing this war as cheaply as possible.

E. M. Postlethwait

 Surface of the Moon is Chapter 10 of  the memoir "GI In the Pacific War"  and can be purchased direct from the Authors at wrussiello<at>cs<dot>com