"OPERATIONS OF COMPANY E AT WHEELER POINT 23 FEB 1945"
TABLE OF CONTENTS
THE OPERATION OF COMPANY “E”, 503D PARACHUTE REGIMENT
(Personal Experiences of a Company Commander)
Early February 1945 found the 503d Parachute Regimental Combat Team conducting a small unit training program on Mindoro Island, Philippine Islands. This period of training had followed the units amphibious assault and seizure of Mindoro Island on 15 December 1944.
This training had been halted abruptly on the 3rd of February 1945 by orders from the 6th Army Headquarters which alerted the Combat Team for a possible mission of seizing Nichols Field, Luzon, P.I. Preparation for the operation were started by all units according to standard operating procedures. The morning hours of 5 February brought orders canceling the mission, but in an off again, on again routine, the Combat Team was alerted again 5 February 1945. The mission: To seize and secure the Jap held Island of Corregidor, and to destroy all enemy forces on the island as part of a greater mission of securing the Manila Bay area of Luzon. The facilities of the Manila Bay area were useless with Corregidor Islandin enemy hands.
THE REGIMENT IS ALERTED
PART I: PREPARATION
Preparation of an airborne operation requires detailed and tireless efforts of all personnel. The preparation for this mission included reconnaissance flights by officers and non-commissioned officers, meticulous efforts of small units in preparing their ammunition and equipment bundles, flight planes, tactical plans, loading plans, plane packing plans, and a numerous other details peculiar to airborne units and the approaching mission.
By 12 February all planning had been completed and all units received the Field Order # 9.
Using terrain models, aerial photos, and sand tables each man of the combat team was briefed on his part in the situation.*
* The sand table was in a pyramidal tent buttoned-down with dirt thrown over bottom of the side flaps sealing them. The battalion’s company officers were crowded into the hot (out in the open under the tropical sun) and airless tent. With so many crowed into the small tent made it difficult to see the table. Even more difficult was the period of about 20 minutes each platoon leader had to brief his platoon (about 35 men after each of us had suffered through the battalion briefing.)
The preparation phase was closed at 0700 hours 16 February 1945 when the 3d Battalion, 503d parachute Infantry, Battery “C” 462d FA Battalion, Company “C”, 161st A/B Engineers and elements of Regimental Headquarters Company emplaned at Elmore and Hill Airstrips, San Jose, Mindoro Island, P.I., constituting the first lift. This battalion combat team was to drop at 0830, secure drop zones “A” and “B”, support by fire the amphibious landing of the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment at South Dock. Upon relief by the 2nd Battalion, 503d Parachute Infantry, the 3rd Battalion would attack and seize the high ground to the East and Northeast, and gain contact with the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry.
The regimental plan called for a new lift to leave San Jose at 1100 hours, 16th February. This life would consist of the 2d Battalion, 503d Parachute Infantry, Battery “B”, 462d FA Battalion, Service Company and elements of Regimental Headquarters Company. This battalion combat team’s mission was to drop at 1240 and upon landing relieve the 3d Battalion of perimeter responsibility. Upon accomplishing relief of the 3d Battalion, the 2d Battalion would conduct operations to the North and West.
A third lift had been planned consisting of the 1st Battalion, 503d Parachute Infantry; Battery “A”, 462nd FA, and the remainder of Regimental Headquarters Company. This lift was to leave San Jose at 0700, 17 February 1945. Due to high jump casualty rate, and initial successes this unit was landed at Mariveles, Bataan Peninsula, Luzon, P.I. by air and moved from there to Corregidor amphibiously, arriving on Corregidor during the middle of the day the 17th. The mission for this Battalion was to direct its action to the South and Southwest. 
THE BATTALION PLAN
Except for a brief statement of specifically detailed missions the battalions were allowed a generally free hand in selecting the method in which to accomplish their assigned missions. Then Battalion plan in substance follows:
Company “D”, 1st LMG Platoon attached. To assume responsibility for the Northeast and Eastern portion of the regimental perimeter. The company would also “mop-up” in and around the Regimental perimeter. An inner perimeter was to be formed behind Company “D” by 3rd Battalion, Hqs. Company, and Company “I”. Map A.
Company “E”, 2nd LMG Platoon attached. To assume responsibility for the Northern and Northwestern portion of the perimeter, and be prepared to attack James Ravine on order. Map A
Company “F”, 3rd LMG Platoon attached. To assume responsibility for the Southern and Southwestern portion of the perimeter and upon relief of Company “I” from the perimeter would attack Crockett* and Wheeler Battery positions. Map A
* Crockett?? Look at distance between Batteries Crockett and Battery Wheeler.
Headquarters and Headquarters Company, to establish a command Post and Battalion Aid Station in the troop area north of Drop Zone “B”. Map A
81mm Mortar Platoon to set up gun positions within perimeter in general support of the battalion.
[Top sentence of page 6 missing on this document, but ends..]
in direct support of 2nd Battalion.
“D” DAY, “H” HOUR-PLUS
From this point the narrative will concern Company “E”, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Parachute Infantry.
Company “E” was loaded aboard its aircraft on Elmore Airstrip, San Jose, Mindoro Island, PI., at 1105, 16th February 1945. At 1244 the lead plane carrying Company “E” personnel was over Wheeler Battery (Map A). This battery position was the “go” point Seven seconds could be counted and then the men would jump. This seven seconds was necessary to allow for the strong wind blowing out to sea over the “Rock”.
The landing experienced by the Company Commander was typical of that experienced by all the men making the drop on Corregidor.
I landed in the ruins of a concrete building at point #1, Map A. The building was three floors high. Upon hitting the top of the building my parachute collapsed and I tumbled through the ruins to the ground floor. The only serious result of the fall was to have seven teeth knocked out or broken off. The loss of the seven teeth was a fair exchange for possible death had I landed outside of the building. The ground around the building was being swept with intense enemy machine gun fire from pillboxes located at points 3 and 4, Map A. There were about fifty men of Companies “E” and “F” also trapped in the building by the machine gun fire.*
* “F” Company jumped on B Field. E Company jumped on A Field. See Ed Flash’s account of the first arrival of F Company troops.
Out in the vicinity of point 2, Map A, several men could be attempting to free themselves from their parachute harnesses and avoid the heavy enemy fire. Several of the men in the area did not move, they were still in their harnesses, and very evidently would never know what hit them.
Two men ran out from the cover of the building in an effort to help the men in the exposed position. One was killed and one was seriously wounded before they had moved fifteen yards.
Almost simultaneously with the efforts of these men, fourteen Japs ran out from the vicinity of point 4, Map A, and attacked the men, around point 2, Map A, with bayonets, even those lying helpless on the ground. Virtually every man in the building opened fire and the Japs were driven off. The attention of one of the men was gained, and told to keep all the men lying flat on the ground until help could be gotten to them. Men in the building were assigned vantage and told to cover the men trapped in the open area.
By using my SCR536 I was able to contact Lt. Donald Abbott, Company executive officer, and tell him of the situation existing at this time. It was 1230 hours.
Lt. Abbott had jumped with the 1st lift at 0830 that morning to establish liaison for the company in assuming responsibility of the units position of the perimeter. Lt. Abbott stated that about sixty men had reached the assembly point in the west end of the long troop barracks building, north of drop field “A”. He also stated that a whole stick of eight men had jumped too soon and drifted over the cliff edge of Crockett Battery. I reported to Abbott that there were men in the building with me and that I felt sure that many of the men at point 2, Map A, were from my 60mm Mortar Platoon. This proved to be correct when the men in that area were finally rescued.
Lt. Abbott was ordered to get the artillery to fire point blank at the pillboxes (points 3 and 4) as soon as possible. This was not accomplished until nearly 1400 hours when the welcome sound of the 74mm pack howitzer was heard, and fire from the pillboxes abruptly ceased.
Men were hurriedly sent out from the building and began carrying the wounded men up toward the parade grounds. There were eleven dead* and fourteen wounded. There were over twenty enemy dead.
*(Bless ‘Em All has accounts of Ed Flash and Fitzhugh Milligan as well as Don Abbott. Of course Don is available to give his now. I also have an account by Ken Rommel, a new arrival replacement who was assigned to the regimental demolition section. He may have been one of the two whom Ed spoke of that scared him. Rommel, in his first letter, described the NCO Quarters and told of going there soon after landing. This whole account of Hill’s beginning with the force being composed of E and F Companies, E Co men going over the cliffs at Btry Crockett, and 11 men dead is gross exaggeration according to others whom I speak of in “Bless ‘Em All”. So, let’s continue with the monograph, page 8, paragraph 3)
Of the American dead and wounded , eleven were from the 60mm platoon of Company “E”, including the platoon sergeant S/Sgt Edward Gulsvick. Accounts given by the wounded at a later date, resulted in a posthumous award of the DSC to S/Sgt Gulsvick. These men stated that Gulsvick had been severely wounded during his decent to the ground. The Japs started attacking the men landing in that area when the jump started at 1244, attempting to spear the jumpers on their bayonets as the men landed. Gulsvick had saved the lives of several men when he single handedly killed fourteen Japs with his TSMG. Gulsvick was finally killed by simultaneous bursts from the machine guns at points 3 and 4. He was attempting to drag a man to the safety of the building at point 1, Map A . (This was one of the uncountable acts of courage and heroism that occurred in the Corregidor Operation. It serves also as a background for the fighting to follow).
The time was now 1450 and the men of Company “E” moved up to the company assembly area. Reorganization of the company was started immediately. The reorganization required about forty minutes time. It can best be described by a few statistics, as follows: 
Of the eight men missing all were recovered early in the morning of the 17th of February. They were the men who drifted over the edge of the cliff on the 16th.* Pfc John Romero, later sergeant, had organized these men and they fought their way back to “Topside” at daybreak the 17th February. Four of the eight men were evacuated due to wounds received on the 16th and 17th. This the company stabilized at 6 officers and 79 enlisted men by morning on the 17th.
This company was introduced to the “hard ‘ole Rock”
THE ATTACK ON JAMES RAVINE
After reorganization on the afternoon of the 16th, Company “E” took over its assigned position of the perimeter and prepared defenses for the night. Due to the lateness of the day, Major Caskey, 2nd Battalion Commander, postponed the attack on James Ravine until next morning. 
As the attack on James Ravine was not the main subject of this monograph, I shall narrate the action only in sufficient detail to describe the nature of the fighting in this section of the island.
The company mission was to attack James Ravine with three objectives in view. First, destroy the enemy in the underground infantry barracks; second, determine the serviceability of the fresh water pumping station, known to have been in use in James Ravine at the time of the Corregidor surrender in April 1942; third, locate and destroy an electrical mine control system, believed to be located in James Ravine.
The main control system was of paramount importance. It existence was predicated by the fact that any attempt by naval vessels to pass between Corregidor and Bataan Peninsula was guarded by the explosion of mines in the path of the ships. The premature touching off of these mines indicated a given sector of observation, which the Navy believed to be centered in the vicinity of James Ravine. 
James Ravine was a narrow, precipitous defile, averaging about 300 feet in depth. The only feasible areas of movement were the network of roads that followed the contours of the ravine, gradually leading to the ravine bottom. The floor of the ravine was widest at the beach, being about 150 feet at this point. The floor tapered back about 10 feet in width. The center of the ravine floor was cut by a concrete drainage ditch. At the base of the west wall of the ravine were the entrances to the underground infantry barracks and to a powder magazine. (Map A) The pumping station was located on the beach at point 7, Map A. A concrete pillbox was situated so as to cover the beach and the roadway at point 9, Map A. Estimated enemy strength, from 150 to 300. (Captured documents and P.O.W. interrogation later set the enemy strength at about 500).
The initial attack on the ravine was made with a reinforced platoon at 0800 the 17th of February. The platoon followed the roads on the east side of the ravine. By 0905 the platoon had advanced against heavy enemy sniper fire and machine gun fire to point 9, Map A. The pillbox at this point was reduced by 1000 hours and the platoon had moved about 50 yards past the pillbox when the Japs opened up with four machine guns from the vicinity of point 8, Map A, on the west side of the ravine.
Advance was stopped at this point and went no further on that day. The combined efforts of the 81mm mortar platoon, a section of LMG and a shelling by a destroyer, were necessary to extradite the platoon from the trap the Japs had sprung on them. It was not until 1610 that afternoon that all the men had been withdrawn from the ravine.
Company “E” again attacked James Ravine at 0730, 18 February, following air strikes by P-47’s loaded with napalm and 1000 pound demolition bombs. One platoon advancing down the road on the west side of the ravine and one platoon down the road on the east side of the ravine.
The Japs bitterly contested every foot of advance made. 1714 hours found the company had been able to only reach a point on the roadway just above the infantry barracks on the west side of the ravine, and had advanced no further than point 9, Map A, on the east side of the ravine. The company broke contact and returned to the regimental perimeter for the night.
At 0900 hours the 19th February, the company again launched attack against James Ravine. The plan of attack was the same as the 18th. There was no other way to attack and maintain the advantage of fighting from the high ground.
The lateness of the hours of attack must have confused the Japs, as no resistance was met until the platoons reached the limits of their advance on the eighteenth. Three machine guns were found abandoned, set up in firing position, and amply supplied with ammunition. The advance had been extremely cautious and the time was 1015 hours.
A loud commotion was heard in the bottom of the ravine, followed by a barrage of fire from the platoon at point 9, Map 9, Map A. Japs were streaming out of the entrance to the underground barracks. It was slaughter. Sixty five Japs were killed before they stopped coming. Apparently they were rushing out to man their defensive positions. Why they had not maintained security is a secret known only to the Japanese.
With fire placed on the entrances to the underground barracks to keep the Nips inside, demolitions were prepared around the tunnel entrance, and placed in the ventilator shafts. Five gallon cans of napalm, which had been carried for the purpose, were put in the ventilator shafts also. The resulting explosions ended, for all time, organized resistance in James Ravine. Fires were still burning inside the barracks, two days later.
The first objective of this mission finally accomplished, the company moved to the pumping station only to find that it had been previously destroyed beyond all hopes of repair. This information was reported immediately as the operation was existing on the meager supply of water that could be supplied by air.
Squads were now sent out for a systematic search of the ravine for a cave that might contain the electrical mine control system. Great care had to be exercised while moving around on the beach. It had been heavily planted with the Japanese “Horn” type mines.
At 1620 the control system was found in a cave located at Point 8, Map A. One man was killed during the brief skirmish in the cave. Fourteen Japs were killed during this short fire fight. The TSMG was again proven to be a very potent weapon. *
The mine control system consisted of about 100 knife switches, connected in series to a power source of six-storage batteries, each about the size of G.I. footlockers. Leads from the switches led to a cable about six inches in diameter. This cable led underground and subsequently to the mines off shore. The entire system was destroyed with demolitions. into Manila Bay.]
The three objectives for the company now accomplished , the company returned to the perimeter for the night.
Mopping up, and closing of caves occupied the efforts of the company the 20th, 21st and 22nd of February.
The following data can best sum up the six days of action in James Ravine.
Lt. Whitson, platoon leader was the only officer lost to enemy action. He had been blinded by a Jap grenade.* until he regained his sight. There he found John Lindgren, Don Abbott and others.] Lt. Abbott was hospitalized by a severe attack of jaundice. had the same experience. I wonder how many others.]
The afternoon of the 22nd of February found Company “E” reorganizing for its attack on Wheeler Point. Company strength was now 4 officers and 71 enlisted men. 
THE ATTACK ON WHEELER POINT
PART I: PLANNING
Reorganization of the company the afternoon of 22 February 1945 resulted in reconstituting the 2nd and 3rd platoons to a strength of 1 officer and 28 enlisted men (3-9 man squads and a platoon sergeant.) [Remainder of this line illegible - cut off]
A 60mm mortar platoon was made up of two, four man squads, one radio operator, a platoon sergeant, and one officer. Company headquarters consisted of the first sergeant, a radio operator and one sergeant to act as operations and supply sergeant. when I was in command 10 April-28 May]
While the organization was being physically made the company commander reported to the Battalion C.P. to receive his orders for the attack on Wheeler Point. Company “E” would relieve Company “C”, 1st Battalion, 0730 23 February at Searchlight Point and destroy the enemy in that area.
After receiving the Battalion Commander’s instructions, Lt. Lawrence Brown, [Laurence S. Browne] Bn. S-3, and I moved to the cliff edge overlooking Wheeler Point. (Map A) From this vantage point most of the area between Searchlight and Wheeler Points could be observed. It was about 1899 hours and the rapidly setting sun cast an ominous mixture of dark shadows and a red glow over the entire area. The scene below the cliff edge sent a cold chill running up and down my back.
The only area for movement was the narrow remains of a bomb cratered roadway about half the way up the cliff face, and the beach which was only about 50 feet wide at its greatest width. The beach was compartmented by Searchlight, Unknown, and Wheeler Points. The roadway and the beach between the points of land were completely devoid of any cover that was visible in the fast approaching darkness. Enemy emplaced on the land could lay fire on every inch of ground between them. This job would be a very “tough nut to crack.”
It was now too dark to see the ground clearly so Lt. Brown and I moved back to the C.P. There we began a detailed study of oblique aerial [An X is placed over the lower figure of the semicolon, and a short word scribbled in ink which I cannot make out] photos, taken of this area two days previous. A study of all intelligence data available. [The bottom line containing the footnotes is cut off.]
The study of the photographs indicated fortified caves at points 1,3,4,5, and 6. (Map B) Concrete fortifications at points 8 and 9. (Map B) A fortified tunnel entrance at point 7. (Map B) This tunnel led back to the underground magazine of Crockett and Wheeler Batteries. This tunnel entrance is clearly the strongest position. (See relative location in the area on Map B. See cross section diagrams of the position, Diagram I) Thanks must be given to the intense bombing and shelling the island received for clearing away the heavy tropical growth that normally would have hidden most of these positions completely.
[One cannot blame Hill for getting confused. The maps were inadequate, naming neither the names of the batteries nor the ravines. None of us knew the names of batteries except where we saw the names on the big gun batteries.]
S-2’s estimates had arrived at an enemy strength of between 175 and 200 in the area from Searchlight to Wheeler Points. Captured documents and P.O.W. interrogation identified as being part of the Endo Force, the only unit to effect a coordinated attack during the operation. This attack, 300 strong, occurred during the early morning hours of 19th February. Was only repulsed and annihilated after several hours of intense fighting. The attack penetrated as far as the 2nd Battalion and Regimental C.P’s. The Endo Force was composed principally of Imperial Japanese Marines and Naval personnel. Enemy known weapons consisted of machine guns and rifles.
The company was supported by one destroyer,
Two LCM’s were to be placed on call for evacuation of wounded as another means of withdrawal in the event the company was cut off from the rear.
Administrative details were cleared up and at 2030* [*Those of us who were in combat realize that companies did not have briefings after dark when no light were allowed. You remained in your position, and anything that moved was enemy!!] the company plan of attack was given to the personnel of Company “E”. It was in substance as follows:**
[** Those of us who have attended the Infantry School OCS recognize the fulfillment of the school solution in Hill’s order. For this, Hill cannot be blamed. However, it is precisely this fact which should have prevented the document from being used as a prime historical document of record.]
 A-1, p.2;
 A-2, p.1;
 A-2, p.1;
 A-2, p.1;
 A-1, p.2, A-4
 A-1, p.2, A-4
 A-1, p.2, A-4
 A-1; p.2, A-4;
 A-2, p.10, A-4.
 A-2, p.10, A-4.
 A-2, p.10, A-4.
 A-2, p.10, A-4.
 MISSED A-3, p.11;
 Personal knowledge of author.
 Personal knowledge of author.
 Personal knowledge of author;
 Personal knowledge of author;
 A-3, annex 1
 A-3, annex 1
 A-3, p. 17.
 A-3, p. 18.
 A-3, p. 18.
 A-3, p. 19.
 A-3, p. 19.
 A-3, p.20-21.
 A-3, p.20-21.
 A-3, p.20-21.
 S-3, page 20-21
 A-1, A-2, A-3.
 A-1, A-2
 Personal knowledge,A-3 p. 29-30.