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Inspection at Ft. Benning, Ga.

The 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment was activated at Fort Benning, Ga. on March 2, 1942.


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The 503rd was a veteran outfit which had been in the Southwest Pacific since late in 1943. They had made two combat jumps previously--one at Nadzab in Papua New Guinea and another at Noemfoor in Dutch New Guinea. Most of the men knew, very well, the role Cor­regidor had played in the early days of World War II after Pearl Harbor. They knew, too, about the defenders of Bataan who had been pushed back to the tip of the peninsula and forced to surrender by overwhelming forces. To the bitter end on May 6, 1942 Corregidor had held out against many weeks of bombing and shelling by the Japanese who needed Manila harbor open to their shipping. Now it was the Americans who needed Manila harbor to service the forces closing in on the "Pearl of the Orient", the city of Manila. A few days before Navy ships attempting to clear mines in the main channel between Corregidor and Bataan had been fired upon and had several ships sunk while others were badly damaged.*

Every trooper was bursting with pride that the 503rd had been chosen for this historic mission. There was only one other Airborne unit in the whole Southwest Pacific Area. The 11th Airborne Division had arrived in the area much later than the 503rd and had missed much of the jungle training and fighting. When the 11th was chosen to participate in the liberation of the City of Manila, the 503rd was greatly disappointed. General MacArthur, however, assured us he had something even better in store for us. When he informed Colonel George M. Jones, the 503rd Commanding Officer, his Regimental Combat Team was to liberate Corregidor the news was received with great enthusiasm.

While the number of Japanese infesting Corregidor was unknown, it was optimistically suspected they would be planning for an amphibious landing as they, themselves, had done in 1942. This was a big gamble because a few well placed machine guns at Topside, as the area of the drop zones was known, and the parachute landing could have been a disaster of a gigantic order. It turned out that Japanese Navy Captain Akira Itagaki had surveyed the Island, after he had received a warning from his superiors of the possibility of such a landing. His study of the terrain convinced him it there was no area suitable for an airborne landing. Consequently, he concentrated his efforts on setting up defenses against amphibious invaders.

Japanese defenders were the potential peril uppermost in the jumpers minds. This was the unknown factor. But there were other serious hazards of which they were more certain. The miniscule size of the two drops zones has already been mentioned.

Wind is a constant threat to parachute jumpers because is one of the factors which can­not be known ahead of time with any degree of certainty. Information about wind velocity and direction was sketchy but it was known the normal direction for that time of year was from the Northeast to Southwest. The velocity, however, could vary from a slight breeze to a zephyr of thirty miles an hour. In non-combat training jumps it was the practice to curtail drops when the wind exceeded fifteen miles an hour. Jumping in any higher winds always brought unnecessary injuries.




* Whilst one mine-sweeper was sunk between Corregidor and Caballo Islands, I am unaware of any ships being sunk. Certainly some destroyers involved in the pre-invasion softening up of Corregidor had been severely damaged by Japanese artillery, and lives losr, these ships were towed from the immediate scene. - Ed