Two long columns of C-47 transport aircraft approached the Island of Corregidor
from the Southwest. Jumpmasters peered anxiously out the open doors of the 47
planes trying to catch a first glimpse of the drop zone assigned to their stick
It was moments before 8:30 on the morning of February 16, 1945 and the 503rd
Parachute Regimental Combat Team was primed to begin what was to turn out to be
a classic model for the effective use of parachute troops.
When the jumpers in the left-hand column could, finally, see their field they
saw the pre-World War II Parade Ground on Topside. The field, itself, was about
200 yards long by about 175 yards wide. When the bombed-out area to the South
was taken into consideration there was a total of about 500 yards long by 200
yards wide. The plane, at 100 miles per hour, would have roughly ten seconds
over the drop zone.
Jumpmasters in the right-hand column had, perhaps, and even grimmer view. They
were to jump on the pre-war nine hole golf course south of the Officers Quarters
and the Officer's Club. This was roughly the same size as the extended Parade
Ground drop zone except there the cliff was right at one end of the field. This
drop zone was constricted to about 275 yards long and 175 yards wide. There were
buildings to look out for on the left side of the field and a dry swimming pool
near the old Officers Club ruins.
The biggest natural hazard, however was the cliffs at the southern edge of each
field. These, generally, dropped off about 500 feet to the South China Sea.
Nothing at all was known about the human hazards--Japanese troops waiting to
make landing a fatal endeavor. Eighth Army Intelligence had a very hazy idea of
what to expect from defenders. The Japanese were known to have been beefing up
their defense facilities when it became evident to them American forces were on
their way back as General Mac Arthur had promised nearly three years before. The
best intelligence could come up with was an estimate of something in the order
of 850 Japanese on the island. It was not long before it became evident that was
a gross understatement.