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 - 7 -

Bill Calhoun

"Down in Maggot Valley by the railroad tracks lay two wrecked trolley cars on their sides, their floors facing us.  Looking to the northwest to Way Hill, where Bill Bailey's force was in position, all we could see was a wooded hill which had escaped the clearing of the heavy bombardment. We could not see them, and they could not see us.  I was told that D Company was at Battery Cheney.  This battery was to our south, about 1000 yards away on the other side of deep, heavily wooded Cheney Ravine.  D Company was strung out on a long, narrow ridge which ran from Battery Wheeler to Battery Cheney. The battery and the ridge running back toward Battery Wheeler could be easily seen from our hill, but the distance was too great to see the men individually.  

They were not incorporated into a perimeter either. Their position was a narrow finger jutting out away from our main defenses.  This was an unsupportable salient.  C Company was nearby to their east at Battery Wheeler, but being at the base of the salient could not support D Company.  Despite being in a position where time was needed to set up a defense which covered all routes of approach, D company were not given that time. I believe battalion gave them their orders even later than they gave F company theirs. 

It is hard road to hoe for those of us who were at the lower level to understand why two companies were pushed well out from Topside into isolated positions with no provisions made far any fire support. Moreover, there was no way to call for fire support.  At the company level our radio net was closed at dark, and our orders and standard practice was clear, and had been so since Noemfoor - under no circumstances were we to open a radio until dawn. No wire was strung to "D" or "F" Companies that night, either.

Every platoon leader, and those above were given a "Special Map" of Corregidor Island, 1:12,500 marked with pre-designated numbers and letters, (e.g., Battery Hearn was #19, the junction of Belt Line Road and the road in Maggot Valley was #25, Battery Cheney was #12 and so on.) When the Japs appeared at point #25 we should have been able to notify higher headquarters who could have called for naval fire from the cruisers and destroyers lying off shore waiting to give fire support, or they could have called in our 75mm howitzers, or our 81mm mortars. This was not done.

We had been muzzled.

We had also been lulled into over-confidence by the failure to correctly estimate the number of Japanese troops on the island.  The prevailing thinking in our combat team when we jumped was formed from a G-2 estimate of 850 defenders. By now, at the higher levels of command, it was known that more Japs had been counted killed than the original G-2 estimate had pronounced upon the island. It was also known to them that our units from Malinta Hill to western Topside were meeting heavy resistance, so a warning down to the companies that "a heavier Jap force occupies the island than had been originally thought" should have been issued. Certainly the disposition of the 2nd Battalion's D and F Companies was unfortunate and should not have happened, but the confident attitude pervaded even Topside, especially Topside, that night, which had no reserve force. The scheme of defense had resulted in a number of strong points, and on this night, the Japanese we weren't aware of were about to test our strong points.

Just after dark two mortar rounds struck the top of our hill, but did no damage.  Sgt. "Red Horse" Phillips and Burl Martin thought they were fired from a mortar near Grubbs Railroad, from a position just after it turns toward Battery Grubbs and bends out of sight. They fired five rounds into this area and we heard no more.  Lee and I were so busy placing the rifle squads into position that we were unaware of the incoming Jap mortar rounds or of our counter-battery fire. Perry Bandt and John Bartlett were in the 3rd squad and on the south side.

 

John Bartlett

"I was aware of the mortars though.  Bandt and I were thinking that there was very little resistance left on the island and we decided not to dig in for the night. About dark a mortar opened up on our position, three or four rounds were fired.  Red Horse and I were talking about this and wondered why they quit firing.  Needless to say Bandt and I dug in quickly."

 

Bill Calhoun

"Bartlett's statement about his and Bandt's frame of mind regarding the Jap resistance being negligible typifies the attitude brought about by the G-2 estimate of 850 Jap defenders.

About 2200 hours we started to hear them coming. Along our eastern perimeter, we could hear Japs shouting in the area, we thought, of the railroad cut. It seemed to start with an individual shouting and the group would chant a response. This would increase in volume until it reached a crescendo.  The all out Banzai would follow.

There is sometimes a lot of jocularity, sing-song and camaraderie about being willing to travel to the gates of hell with one's buddies, but truly each of us one's knew that in a short while the gates of hell were marching up the valley towards us.  They were yelling and shouting, marching up the road along Maggot Valley. This seemed to be the signal for a Navy star shell to explode overhead and illuminate the area, though the Navy's timing was simply and randomly fortuitous. The front of the Jap column could be seen clearly near the junction of Belt Line Road and the road,#25.  A long line of a column of fours followed, proving at last to us that the intelligence estimates were carefully crafted fantasy, rather than military science. It was about 2330.  

They seemed to be trying to incite fear into us by their shouting and chanting, and were successful. Any rifleman, put in one position and ordered to stay there, who says he didn't have doubts as the gates of hell came up to meet him that night wasn't there.  We'd all heard and retold the stories of Jap tactics in past battles, such as Bloody Ridge on Guadalcanal when the Japs charged chanting "Marine you die!", "Banzai!", "Totsugeki!" (charge), "Blood for the Emperor!" flashed again to our minds, and we knew that shortly there would be a lot of death to be done. Arranging for things to happen (" Todd, get over to Johnson and get a bandolier of ammo from everyone of his riflemen and so many BAR clips,"  "Crawl up to Lee and Phillips and check the situation," and "Send Mikal over to the north side and check on the 1st squad and the machine guns" etc.) kept me so preoccupied though, that there was no time to lose concentration or presence of mind. At the end of those thousand hours, when dawn's early light came, there was no one among us more relieved than I. 

  Proving it was not a vision, several subsequent star shells floated eerily over the landscape. This was a battalion sized unit, 500 men or more.  They were close enough for us to see that some were sick and throwing up, yet they came.  We felt they were drunk. The booze was certainly plentiful enough. 

Our firepower was cutting swaths into their ranks, and still they came. Groups would crumple from the explosions of our 60mm mortar rounds scoring direct hits in the road, and those still erect would close up ranks and keep on coming. Soon our machine guns were also cutting swaths in their ranks. Each of the two mortars had 40 to 50 rounds of ammunition, but all too soon the supply was exhausted.

Until that hellish sight, there had been no evidence to suggest that there were so many Japanese remaining on the entire island, yet it was no accident that our mortar defense reserves were so robust.  We probably would not have survived with less, and if the command credit should have gone to any single man that night, it should have gone to our Company Commander, Bill Bailey, who was not taken off guard.  He'd planned for the worst, as a good commander should, and had laid in to both positions a large amount of ammunition for the night.  Bill just never did toot his own horn, he was busy doing his job.  Life isn't fair, and neither is recognition in war, but he sure deserved a Silver Star that night. He just wasn't the sort who'd see himself awarded one.

Recognition of uncommon valor that night did come to one man, and though it interrupts the recalling of the fight, I will tell it now because this recognition was to the most extraordinary warrior I ever knew.  Two Congressional Medals of Honor were awarded arising from the retaking of Corregidor, one for action on the USS Fletcher during the pre-invasion bombardment and the other, the only land based award, was for our first scout that evening.  

Being in the 3rd squad, Private Lloyd G. McCarter was initially on the south side of the hill. A few of his squad were on the west side of the hill.  Red Horse was with the gun at the small east ventilator.  McCarter had seen some of the Japs were getting past, and moved to the northeast corner by the 'hump' formed where the tunnel entered the magazine." 

 /8

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