"RECOLLECTIONS ON CORREGIDOR"
I am putting down the circumstances that took me to where I was when the Japanese blew up the large cave at Monkey Point on February 26, 1945.
I’ve used parts of several books to verify the
starting date. After that, events are as I remember them. They will not always
jibe with the books.
The morning of February 24, the first Battalion of
the 503d moved over and around Malinta Hill toward the eastern end of
We went slowly, sometimes wary of anti-vehicle mines in the road (after we saw the first one we walked to the side of the road.) Occasionally we would wait, then follow a mortar barrage. At one point the company held up briefly while our squad shocked out an area off the right flank.
In the late afternoon we swung left and third
squad, third platoon, became the battalion’s extreme right flank as we
prepared to assault a hill we called “water Tank Hill.” We stayed put while
artillery, and probably the 81 mm mortars, worked over the hill. Then we fixed
bayonets and went up, at the same time keeping an eye to the right. Nothing
threatened there and we encountered only one enemy soldier at our end of the
line. He waited until we were right upon him, then jumped from a hole and ran.
Many of us fired simultaneously, and he was shot a lot of times.
was getting dark when we reached the top and there took up a defensive position.
With one or two inches of soil over solid rock there was no digging in. This
time our squad was on Company “A”’s extreme left. To our left, Company
“B” I believe it was, started
its defensive line. Between us was a machine gun, and crew, from Battalion
Headquarters company. Even a somewhat depleted parachute infantry battalion was
crowded together on that small hill – and not dug in. The platoon CP guys were
only about 4 yards behind us. We would all sleep with our helmets on.
After settling the business of how we would take turns staying awake, no doubt also done in every other squad, I fell asleep. Some time later the sound of explosions woke me. They were about like hand grenade explosions, and the flashes were just short of the hill’s crest – short of us. My first, bleary, thought was that the Japanese were advancing up the hill, throwing grenades ahead. The machine gunner just to our left, must have also thought that, for he opened up at those flashes.
More awake, now, I realised it was not enemy
advancing, but probably one with a knee mortar – and his rounds were not
reaching us. The flames from that machine gun, though, must have been over two
feet long. In my most authoritative voice I ordered the machine gunner to cease
firing. He did, but the damage was done. About 30 seconds later, there was a
clank right among us and I guess we all realized that, although it was a dud,
the little mortar now had the range.
Another 30 seconds and the next one came in. It was not a dud. I felt pain in the back of my neck, just below my helmet, and knew I’d been hit. Ears ringing, I rolled over and started crawling toward the platoon CP to see the medic. The ringing stopped and I heard Lt. William Sullens, Platoon Sgt. Harvey Hicks and Pvt Harry Hamilton all say they’d been hit, and all had much more serious wounds than I did.
No more rounds fell that I heard. The navy had been
contacted and fired star shells over us, illuminating the area. I was later told
that, in the bright light, some-one had spotted and shot the guy with the knee
By daylight Sullens, Hicks and Hamilton had died. I
reported the third platoon situation to the company commander and caught a ride
to the regimental aid station. My bleeding had stopped, but I wondered if a
fragment of something was still in the neck. At the aid station I was given a
shot of Novocain by the regimental dentist who “don’t like to fool with a
neck” and turned over to a doctor who probed. Nothing in there. Later I was
assigned a cot, and I spent the night of the 25th in it.
Next morning, when I told the doctor I’d like to
go back to the company, he said I didn’t have to go and that he admired my
spirit. Since then I’ve wondered why on earth I did go back when I didn’t
have to. But I was rested and clean. My wound, though a close call, had turned
out to be no more than a nick. Just about every person I’d met in the past 3
years was up there. I guess I figured I should be too.
I was issued clean fatigues and a rifle covered
with Cosmoline. I cleaned the rifle and started back. The trip was no more than
a mile, and I caught a ride for most of it in a service company jeep driven by
Charles Woodlee who at one time had been in "A" company. Walking, I found the
company and reported to the first sergeant in the words of General MacArthur,
“I have returned.”
He was not a bit amused and sourly told me, “We’ve put those left into two platoons. You are now in the second platoon.” I was told by the second platoon sergeant, “You were a squad leader. We don’t need any more squad leaders so you’re a rifleman again and you’re in the second squad. That’s them just going out on patrol.”
I caught up with the patrol and fell in, as I recall, between Robert Atz and Paul Saul. I never learned the purpose of the patrol or where we were going – or who the patrol leader was.
Almost immediately we were strung out over the entrance to a large cave with a metal door. A tank sat broadside about 30 yards from the door. Other patrol members stretched ahead, then down so that the patrol’s first scout, Ted (“Pat”) White, was at the entrance level and a little to one side. I was not quite to a point directly over the door and, looking down to the right, could see Pat, the door and the tank.
Pat called up to us, “There are two dead Yanks down here.” That’s all I can remember, so it is probably when the explosion occurred.
I have been told that the whole of its force could not escape out the entrance (but what did tipped the tank,) so the earth over the cave, to my left, opened up. Likely the concussion from that broke my left eardrum and killed my left eye’s optic nerve. The broken bones were probably due to falling rocks. I received casts on both legs, and other care, at our aid station, though I cannot remember it and was sent to a hospital at Subic Bay where I “came to.”
I began the journey towards home. Thirteen months
later, after a couple of operations and the broken bones had healed, I was
discharged from the Army. It had taken me about as long to remove the cosmoline
from that rifle as it did to find my company, start out on patrol and get blown
© 2002 Howard
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