Harry Drews




This article was originally published in the 1977 reprint of The Return To Corregidor by Harold Templeman, under the title "HARRY DREWS SEES THE SIGHTS OF CORREGIDOR ON A WOODEN LEG"




                              by Harry Drews


Since the 503's last great reunion in St. Louis, when the trip back to the Philippines was finalized, I knew that I would be on that trip because I had to revisit Corregidor.


Because on 24 February, 1945, an enemy soldier threw a hand grenade at me and it exploded between my feet. Shrapnel cut the main artery to my foot which slowly died and necessitated my going through two amputations of the right leg. I had to return to the Philippines and, of course, Corregidor.

We left the Manila dock on the morning of 15 February, 1979, and headed for Bataan. In about one hour the faint outline of Corregidor could be seen. It was a thrill just to see that famous Island grow larger and larger as we headed to Mariveles. As we closed in Malinta Hill could be recognized. The Island looked peaceful and quiet, but it brought back many memories and faces and names of the men in Company D who didn't make it back even on one leg.

That evening we stayed in a marvellous motel on Bataan overlooking Corregidor. I cannot exactly explain it, but every now and then I had to walk out on a balcony and look at that Island which was being shaken from top to bottom 34 years ago in preparation that led to its recapture. That night I went to bed but slept very little thinking about the big event of again walking on ground which even angels 34 years ago may well have dreaded doing.

The next morning the adrenalin was running high as we departed from Bataan and headed around the west and south end of the Island. As we passed Cheney Ravine I can still see in my mind the efficiency of a good fighting team in clearing a pill box of the enemy. Next came a culvert, and even though we in Company D gave an unknown number of enemy an opportunity to live, they chose to die begging for mercy after they made their choice, but by that time it was too late, So far we had not lost a man in that day of fighting. Cheney Ravine was ours for that day.

A few days later we again reviewed the ravine, but where the ravine met the ocean we cornered 21 enemy in a shallow cave. Again the enemy was given an opportunity to save their lives, but they chose differently. Fighting the enemy not more than four feet away cannot but be remembered. One also remembers the losses we suffered. The self destruction our enemy inflicted upon themselves was difficult to believe - - that ordinary foot soldiers could be made to believe suicide would help their cause. It didn't.

As we rounded the Island a bit more I began to try and pick out the point top side where Company D was entrenched when the enemy banzaid us one night. It was a hot and humid night, but still my teeth chattered in fear of dying.

The next morning the members of Company D who remained reorganized and attacked into the heart of the area. We discovered so many dead and wounded, our own and the enemy, that I have never felt so much hate for anyone as I did for our enemy. From that very moment on, as far as I was concerned there would be no quarter given and no quarter asked.

On February 24, 1915, just eight days after our landing Company D, what was left of it, went down Cheney Ravine to the ocean, walked through a mine field, and turned left. This day we would clear out the beach area past Searchlight Point.

I remember the boulders, the heat, the anxiety, the uncertainty, the expectancy, the flies, the dirt, and best of all the confidence and the great morale of our Company.

It had been tough going and the Lt. called for a break for the stragglers to catch up. I remember my order to several scouts to head up the knoll to observe front and rear. The explosion of a rifle shot on the knolls I remember ordering a squad up the knoll and I headed up that knoll to help the two men. One scout had shot an enemy. I remember the thought that where there is one, there will be more. By that time the second scout and I found eight or nine enemy lying in a trough. I remember working my Thompson sub-machine gun and then all hell broke loose. We were being fired on from the side of Corregidor. I remember passing the first enemy shot three or four minutes prior. Something told me to turn around, and sure enough one of the eight or nine enemy who had just been shot was standing up - - he wasn't standing a second later, but as I looked down, there was that damned hand grenade. The next thing I know is that my right arm is bleeding, my entire body was unduly warm - - no pain, just warm and I am shaking my head trying to clear it. I know something is wrong. Some-how I walked away still holding my weapon. My mind and training said "don't lose that weapon". I walked about 12 or 15 feet and dropped to the ground. I see enemy dropping off the sides of Corregidor. I'm still being fired at and I can feel the rock splinters hitting me. About that time I remember two members of Company D running out to me and dragging me behind a boulder. I remember pulling my trousers down with my left hand. My right arm was broken. I remember the bubble of blood that made me believe I had lost what is so important to every man. I really didn't mind dying, but I didn't want to die "that" way.

Now we head toward our landing and reception near Malinta Hill. I look up to a point on Corregidor's top side when I and several other members of Company D spent the first night where I watched the last 503d Battalion landing by landing craft. All of a sudden the enemy opened up 50 yards ahead of me with a heavy automatic weapon. I remember watching a small destroyer escort sail in between the landing craft and the enemy firing at our people; lowering the dual 3-inch guns and firing point blank into the enemy's position. I remember the enemy screaming in pain, and I remember feeling no pity.

Now I am again on Corregidor - - this time in a happy and friendly mood. I am with friends who no doubt have many of the same memories.

After the "Welcome Back" ceremonies, we all are taken top side and now I am standing in awe of the 503d Memorial mock up. It is beautiful. It is just what I visualized and it is something that every member of the "Rock Force" can be proud of. It is a memorial that will stand for milleniums to remind all peoples that tyranny must pay a high price and that truth, freedom and democracy will prevail. It will stand to remind the many visitors to Corregidor for years to come that the 503d was here and conquered.

Travelling around Corregidor one notices that all man-made objects that were on the Island prior to the start of World War II will bear the scars of battle forever. However, nature has taken care of the scars inflicted on the natural surroundings, as if God is telling humanity to never desecrate the Island again, as it belongs to the men and women who gave so much to defend and recapture it.

No one can ever forget the members of Company D who ran back and forth between the columns of concrete and having an enemy sniper take a shot at them, so the rest of us could try to pick out the sniper. I believe we finally drove that enemy soldier to the point of frustration because he finally came out of his hiding place (having not hit a single man) and tried to throw a grenade at our Company D man who went out to bring the sniper in as a prisoner. The hand grenade was never thrown and the sniper never survived.

There are more memories to be told, some unfit to be recorded for history. These memories of Corregidor, Mindoro, Leyte, Noemfoor, Negros are always brought home every time I take an airplane trip and go through security. Yep, the many pieces of shrapnel still imbedded in my arm and leg are of sufficient size and quantity to cause security guards to check me thoroughly. I have stopped telling them why the bells ring and the buzzers buzz. These are my memories.


Harry Drews














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