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Aerial photographs of the drop zones had, vividly, shown some of the more serious obstacles. That was the terrain itself. There were many bomb and shell craters spread throughout the area left from the heavy bombing done by the U.S. Army Air Corp during the month prior to the jump. These, of course, were added to any craters left over from the Japanese siege in 1942. Between the siege and the jump trees and other vegetation had been allowed to grow without control all over the Island. The Air Corps bombs, landing among the trees, neatly slice off the tops, leaving sharpened trunks ready to impale an unlucky jumper. Aside from those hazards, there was rubble such as chunks of concrete and cor­rugated iron roofing spread all over the area.

But it was the cliff at the south end of each field which was the most dangerous element to consider. Topside was an irregular rolling area which averaged about 550 feet above sea level. The lighthouse, which stood between the two drop zones was the highest point on the is­land, at about 600 feet. The cliff to the South of the right hand field, known as Landing Zone B, was abrupt, but the one to the south of the left hand field, known as Landing Zone A, was almost sheer. Any jumper drifting over the edge would be in real trouble.

Parachute jumping is not a precise business at best, but several fairly reliable factors are known. Firstly, an average person will drop at the rate of about 20 feet per second after his parachute has opened. Therefore if the parachutist jumps at one thousand feet above the ground it should take him 50 seconds to land. Of course a jumper in combat gear, which could easily exceed a hundred pounds, comes down faster. If the wind is blowing at ten miles an hour, he will drift over 700 feet! The only way of reducing the distance he will drift is to reduce the altitude of the jump. Initial planning for the Corregidor jump specified the jump altitude to be at 1150 feet, or 500 feet above the average ground level. That would reduce the drift to 350 feet at a wind velocity of 10 miles per hour. IP's (Initial Points) were designated for each field for the jump masters to use as guide points.

A delay of three seconds beyond the IP was the preliminary instruction for the jumpmasters to follow.

Each C-47 carried equipment bundles and an average of about 20 men. Although trained jumpers, such as the 503rd men, can go out the door in less than a second, manhan­dling equipment bundles takes time which must be allowed for. Since the C-47's flying at roughly 100 miles an hour would have only about ten seconds over the field, it was determined each plane would have to make three passes, dropping about seven men each time.

Colonel Jones, knowing the variables which could not be foreseen, opted to fly in a com­mand plane over the island to keep watch over the operation and to be able to radio needed changes to the planes dropping the jumpers. The command plane was flown by Colonel John Lackey, Commanding Officer of the 317th Troop Carrier Group. This outfit was nicknamed the JUNGLE SKIPPERS. This was a veteran group which had dropped the 503rd a number of times and could be relied upon to fly the mission according to plan, something which could not be said for many pilots untrained in dropping parachute troops.

The 51 C-47’ s of the 317th were all the Troop Carrier planes which could be spared to drop the invaders of Corregidor. While there were other units in the Southwest Pacific, they were badly needed for supply missions to other fighting units as well as general transportation

needs. Unfortunately, the Southwest Pacific never had the number of transports such as were available for dropping many thousands of troops as was the case in the European Theater of opera­tions. The 317th could drop only about a third of the 503rd Parachute RCT at a time.

The 503rd Parachute RCT was made up of the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment, the 462nd Parachute Artillery Battalion and Company "C" of the 161st Parachute Engineer Bat­talion. The RCT total manpower consisted of roughly 3000 men.

This meant there would have to be three separate drops of parachutists. Chosen as the first jumpers was the Third Battalion of the 503rd Parachute Infantry, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel John L. Erickson, Battery “A” plus a platoon from Battery “D” from Major Arlis E. Kline's 462nd Parachute Field Artillery and Company “C”, 161st Airborne Engineer Battalion.

Over-all plans for the liberation of Corregidor called for three jumps by elements of the 503rd Parachute RCT. The first would be the drop to begin at 8:30 AM on the February 16, 1945 followed by a second at 12:50 PM on the same day. At that time the Second Battalion of the 503rd Parachute Infantry, commanded by Major Lawson B. Caskey, and Battery “B” plus a platoon from Battery “D”, 462nd Parachute FA Bn. would jump. The final jump, consisting of the First Battalion of the 503rd Parachute Infantry, under Major Robert H. Woods, with Battery “C” and one platoon from Battery “D” 462nd FA Bn. would drop the following morning.