Operations of the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Parachute Infantry Regimental Combat Team
Recapture of Corregidor Island
February 16 1945 – February 23 1945
Personal Observation of a Parachute Rifle Platoon Leader
1/Lt Edward T. Flash
The 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment was one of the 4 original Billy Ryder’s Test Platoon Parachute Regiments trained, created and assembled in Fort Benning, Georgia. The 503rd, made of from the split of both Regiments, the 503rd and the 504th. Men and Officers assembled under the 503rd Guidon generated a full size regiment which was activated on February 24 1942 under the command of Brig Gen William M. Miley and Lt Col Edson D. Raff as Executive Officer. The 503-PIR’s first operation was an unopposed landing at Nadzab, in the Markham Valley, New Guinea, on September 5 1943. Although the landings were unopposed, the troops were later attacked by enemy bombers. The 503’s deployment helped force the Japanese evacuation of a major military outpost at Lae. During their overland withdrawal, the third battalion of the 503 had a major skirmish with the Japanese rear guard. On July 3/4 1944, 1/503 and 3/503 were delivered by parachute to Kamiri Airfield on the island of Noemfoor off the coast of Dutch New Guinea, sustaining significant casualties from the jump. To reduce further casualties, 2/503 was delivered amphibiously. At the Battle of Noemfoor, the 503-PIR played a major role in the elimination of the Japanese garrison on that island.
Following a non-combat landing on the island of Leyte in the Philippines, the 503-RCT (Regimental Combat Team) made a major amphibious landing on Mindoro Island in the central Philippines on December 15 1944. Originally, it was intended for the 503 to jump on Mindoro, but due to inadequate airstrip facilities on Leyte, an airborne landing was not possible. During the Battle of Mindoro, the 503 was subjected to intense air and naval actions, at one point being shelled for 25 minutes by a Japanese naval task force. One company of the 503-RCT engaged in a fierce battle against a company-size Japanese force defending an enemy air raid warning station on the north end of the island. The success of the Mindoro operation enabled the Army Air Forces to construct and operate air strips and forward air bases to support later landings in the Philippines at Lingayen Gulf, Luzon.
On February 16 1945, the 503-RCT jumped on Fortress Corregidor (“the Rock”) to liberate that island from occupying Japanese forces. The assault on Corregidor was the most intense combat action in which the 503rd engaged during its existence. Braving intense fire, the paratroopers rushed forward and overcame the heavy blockhouse defenses, dropping explosives into embrasures to kill hidden Japanese gunners. For its successful capture of Corregidor, the unit was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation and received its nickname, “the Rock Regiment” from it. The regimental insignia was designed by PFC Thomas M. McNeill while recuperating from his injuries and dengue fever, hepatitis, and malaria on Mindoro Island, following the battle of Corregidor.
This report covers the operations of the 2/503-PRCT in an unusual airborne assault on enemy held Corregidor Island, Philippines, February 16 1945 to February 23 1945, and the part it played in reopening the Port of Manila to Allied shipping. In order to orient the reader it will be necessary to discuss briefly the major events which led up to this action. Early in January 1945 the forces of the US Sixth Army were organized and ready to make an invasion of the Luzon Island, Philippines, in the third and most important phase in the overall plan for the liberation of the Philippines Island. By the end of 1944, organized resistance had ceased in the Leyte and Mindoro Operations. Thus the first two phases of the overall liberation of the Philippines Island were completed. On January 9 1945, troops of the US Sixth Army, consisting of I and XIV Corps, hit the beaches in the Lingayen Gulf area after a naval, air and surface bombardment previously unequaled in the Southwest Pacific. The Sixth Army immediately launched a swift and aggressive offensive toward Manila and finally arrived at the northeastern outskirts of the city on February 3 1945.
On January 29 1945, troops of the US XI Corps under the strategic direction of the US Eighth Army landed on the west coast of Luzon near Subic Bay, with the mission of driving eastward and isolating the Bataan Peninsula. By February 14, these forces had reached halfway down the east coast of Bataan with little or no organized resistance. Meanwhile the, final closing of the perimeter encircling Manila was made with the landing of US Forces on Batangas Province, Southern Luzon, and by February 10 1945 these troops were approaching the southern outskirts of the city.
While the Battle of Manila raged at its height, the immediate availability of the port facilities for further operations against the Japanese was therefore imperative. One single position presented an opportunity for a brilliant stroke that would insure the possessor complete control of the Manila Harbor and surrounding islands. Sitting astride the entrance to Manila Bay and guarding its approaches from the China Seas, stood Corregidor Island, a mass of rock that rises abruptly from the sea. The Sixth Army plan for this coming attack divided the operation into three separate invasions. For the first invasion, the XI Corps would land in the Mariveles Bay Area on D-Day, secure a beachhead and establish control over the southern tip of Bataan. One reinforced infantry battalion would accompany the Mariveles force to be used in conjunction with the second and third invasions by combined airborne and amphibious landings on Corregidor. In the airborne and amphibious phase, D+1, the 503-PRCT, mounted by troops from the US Eighth Army, on Mindoro Island, would drop on Corregidor. Control of the 503 would pass to the XI Corps upon completion of the drop. The third and final assault of this plan called for the 3/34-IR (reinforced)(24-ID), to make an amphibious assault on the beach in San Jose (Corregidor), two hours after the parachute landing. This battalion was to be mounted for its shore-to-shore operation from Mariveles. Tactical planning for the assault involved the highest degree of coordination of operations by ground, sea, and air forces. Japanese experience in 1942 had demonstrated that an amphibious assault on this island could be extremely costly. The means to avoid a costly amphibious assault were available. Also, points of our own choosing to land would make it possible by surprise to seize the key terrain features of the island before the enemy could react to thwart our action.
Dispositions and Plans of the 503-PRCT
On February 4 1945, the 503-PRCT was in the process of integrating, training, and orienting replacements that had recently arrived on Mindoro. Early on February 6 1945, HQs 503 received an alert order for the assault on Corregidor. Available forces and composition of the 503 at this time were as follows : 3 Parachute Infantry Battalions; HQs & HQs Co 503 & Service Company 503. Each infantry battalion consisted of three rifle Companies and a Battalion Headquarters Company. Each rifle Company consisted of three rifle platoons and a mortar platoon. The Battalion HQs Co contained a light machine gun platoon, 81-MM mortar platoon, communications platoon, and a medical detachment. The Field Artillery Battalion consisted of three gun batteries armed with the 75-MM pack howitzer, one battery of .50 caliber machine guns, and a HQs & Service Cos. The Engineer Company consisted of a Company Headquarters Platoon and three engineer support platoons.
On February 8 1945, a copy of the Sixth Army Field Order # 48 was received by the 503-PRCT and a thorough staff study of the airborne aspects of the operations immediately followed. Maps and charts were procured, sand tables erected and all battalion and separate company commanders were alerted. A map study brought out the important features of Corregidor before a decision was made as to the selection of possible drop zones. Corregidor is a tad-poled shaped island only 7000 yards long. Its bulbous head, commonly called Topside is 2300 yards in diameter and surrounded by precipitous cliffs that rise well over 500 feet out of the water. It gradually tapers down to the North and South Docks and is commonly called Bottom Side. The distance between the North and South Docks is 500 feet and does not exceed 25 feet above the water’s edge. Arising almost straight up from Bottom Side to a towering 400 feet is Malinta Hill, the second most important piece of key terrain on the island. This key terrain feature dominates all the remainder of the island that extends to East Point on the eastern tip of the island. From this terrain study, three possible drop zones were selected. Of the three, one was a pre-war emergency air strip, Kindley Field, just north of Monkey Point, immediately discarded since landing there would be tactically unsound. The main Jap positions were located in and around Malinta Hill which completely dominated the air strip. The other two were on Topside and were respectively designated and DZ A and DZ B (Statement of Maj Lawson B. Caskey, 2/503 CO). DZ A was the pre-war parade ground and approximated 250 yards by 150 yards. DZ B, was a small area that formerly passed as a golf course. It was barely 300 by 100 yards and located on the slope of a hill. Aerial photographs of areas further revealed these drop zones to be covered with bomb craters, sharp cement boulders, tin, glass, steel blows from the nearby buildings, and sharp tree limbs sticking skyward.
The natural defensive installation had been further elaborated on by the United States at the time it occupied the island, with at least eight 12-inch disappearing guns (305-MM), concrete barracks, and a series of underground shops, and tunnels, all reinforced, by five feet of concrete and steel. The road network was of the standard military construction, leading to the guns, magazines, quarters, and shops. The pounding that the island had taken from the Jap artillery in 1942, changed the very topography of the island. Hills and hummocks were depressions. Paved roads in many cases were covered with landslides or dotted by craters. This operation represented one of the most difficult ever carried out by paratroops. The high degree of coordination required by the ground, sea, and air forces had already begun at Sixth Army Headquarters, on February 7, and on the flagship of the Commander, Amphibious Group Nine on February 8. The conference aboard the flagship was attended by : Commanding General, XI Corps; Commanding General, 54th Troop Carrier Wing; Commander, Seventh Amphibious Forces; Commander, Cruisers Seventh Fleet; Commander, Amphibious Group Nine; G-3, XI Corps; G-3 Fifth Air Force; Commanding Officer, 503-PRCT and various staff officers assigned to the headquarters and commands named. Frequent and personal visits between the Commanding Officer of the 503-PRCT and the Commanding Officer of the 317-TCG, afforded extremely close liaison on matters concerning the drop. To summarize the final plan for the Corregidor Operations, the 151-RCTs would by amphibious assault land in the Mariveles Bay on February 15 1945. The 3/34-ID (Reinforced by the 3rd Plat, AT Co and 3rd Plat Cannon Co of the 34-ID would accompany the 151-RCT to Mariveles and prepare for its shore-to-shore assault on Corregidor. On February 16, the 503-PRCT would drop on Corregidor, secure a perimeter for the following airborne drops, and support by fire the amphibious landing. On February 12, all planning had been completed and all units received the Regimental Command Teams Field Order # 9. Using terrain models, aerial photos and sand tables all troops were briefed on the mission. Detailed instructions on each phase of the operation was clearly defined and reconnaissance flights by all jump masters were flown over Corregidor. Maj Gen Marquat, Artillery Officer on Corregidor prior to its capture, personally addressed the officer and men of the 503-PRCT and further elaborated on exacting details of the terrain and important locations. The regiment planned to have the 3/503 (Reinforced by C Btry, 462-PFAB (Parachute Field Artillery), Charlie 161-AECB (Airborne Engineers), one platoon of Dog Btry (.50 Caliber Machine Guns – 462-PFAB), and elements of the HQs Co 503 make the initial drop on Corregidor at 0830 on February 16 and secure both A and B drop zones for the second and third airborne lifts. They would also support by fire the amphibious landing which would follow shortly after the first drop.
The 2/503 (Reinforced by B Btry 462-PFAB, Service Co, 1 Platoon Battery D (.50 Caliber Machine Guns 462-PFAB, and elements of HQs Co 503 constituted the second lift, would drop on A and B fields at 1240, February 16, and upon landing would relieve the 3/503 of perimeter responsibility to enable it to make contact with the 3/34-IR. The third lift consisting of the 1st Battalion, Battery A, 462nd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion and the remainder of Regimental Headquarters Company were to leave Mindoro at 0700 February 17 and drop on A and B fields upon arrival.
Each paratrooper was to carry one unit of ammunition for his individual weapon, two canteens of water, and four meals of K ration on his person for the drop. All resupply would be by aircraft until replaced by amphibious resupply as soon as contact was completed between airborne and amphibious forces. Our major supply problem was water, as no information was available as to water supply condition existing on the island. The regiment adopted a flight pattern of two columns of single C-47 type aircraft in trail, one column over each field, each plane to make a minimum of two or three passes, dropping a stick of 6 to 8 men on each pass. The drop point for each field was a distinct ground feature, and on the green light GO signal from the pilot, each jump master was to count three seconds and jump. To further eliminate the vulnerability that is always present immediately after the jump, mortars, Browning automatic rifles, and light machine guns were jumped on the individual person.
The Battalion Situation
After the battalion had been alerted for the Corregidor mission, each jump master was required to make a practice spot jump from an altitude of 500 feet, followed with unit assembly problems on the ground. Since the regimental plan of attack did not call for the 2/503 to make the initial parachute drop, and in order to expedite the relief of the 3/503 after dropping, Maj Lawson B. Caskey, Battalion Commander, made arrangements to have his G-3 and Company Executive Officers drop with the initial wave in order to expedite the relief of the 3/503 upon arrival. Morale was extremely high throughout the battalion. On the night before the battle, captured Japanese movies showing the fall of Corregidor in 1942 and the insulting treatment of the American prisoners of war and American flag were shown the troops. Aside from the sentimental aspects of the retaking of ‘The Rock’, the urge for revenge surged in every man.
The Battalion Plan of Attack
Since little was known of the actual enemy’s strength or dispositions other than the general estimation of 850 troops, the battalion commander was well aware and ready for the changing situation that could confront the Regimental Combat Team Commander after the parachute, drops had been made. All unit commanders were warned to allow for great flexibility in their plans and be ready to change on a moments notice. Immediately after dropping on B field, Dog Co (reinforced), would assume responsibility for the northeast and eastern sector of the regimental perimeter, and continue to mop up in and around the immediate area. Easy Co would drop on A field, and assume responsibility for the northern and northwestern portion of the perimeter on Topside, and be prepared to attack James Ravine on order. Fox Co, would drop on B field and cover that portion of the perimeter on Topside between Easy and Dog Co’s flanks. Upon attachment of supporting fires, they would attack and secure Wheeler Battery. Battalion HQs Co would establish the Command Post and Aid Station in the long barracks on Topside. The Battalion Communication Platoon, upon landing, would enter into the regimental net and at the same time establish the battalion net. With the uncertainty of the situation, no attempt would be made to wire the companies with battalion. The only means of communication available at that time would be the radio and messenger. The aerial resupply of water being the only known assurance of water, all personnel were warned against the danger of consuming the majority of the water contained in their two canteens.
Air Movement & Final Preparations for Attack
Preparations for the assault on Corregidor had begun as early as January 23 1945, when twenty 13-AAF B-24s dropped one hundred and eighty 250-pound general purpose bombs on the island and sixteen 5-AAF A-20s bombed and strafed the island. From January 23 on, the tempo of the bombing increased steadily up to the day of the actual drop. By the day of the airborne assault, February 16 1945, a total of 1012 sorties had dropped 3128 tons of bombs. On February 13, elements of a US Navy Task Force, consisting of five cruisers, six destroyers, motor torpedo boats, and other vessels began shelling the Harbor in Mariveles and in Corregidor. The shelling of Corregidor was directed against pillboxes, water line caves, tunnels, and visible gun installations. The shelling continued through the landings made at Mariveles on February 15 and Corregidor on February 16. Early on February 16, twenty-four 5-AAF B-24s hit gun positions on Corregidor with nine hundred and sixty 260-pound fragmentation bombs. One minute after that had lifted, eleven B-25s bombed and strafed, dispersing eighty 100-pound bombs, and 1592 rounds of .50 caliber ammunition. Simultaneously, twenty A-20s bombed and strafed both DZ A and DZ B. At 0630, just one minute after the last bombing and strafing was lifted, the first aircraft from Mindoro started to discharge the paratroopers of the first lift. As the C-47s circled over the island and continued to drop their passengers, A-20s bombed and strafed the eastern half of the island. At 1030, the 3/34-IR (reinforced), began storming the beaches at Bottom side under heavy enemy fire.
The Attack on Corregidor
At 1210, with the element of surprise no longer existing, troops of the 2/503 led by Maj Lawson B. Caskey, began dropping on DZ A and DZ B over a murderous hail of enemy ground fire. Grazing enemy fire covered both drop zones and surrounding areas. The stunned Japanese, apparently partially recovered from the initial surprise shock, started to leave their holes and caves in a fanatical manner to shoot or bayonet the descending troopers. As paratrooper hit the ground with a thud, one was never sure whether he was going to be capable of walking away from the landing. Many of the radios that were fastened to the legs of the troopers for the descent were smashed beyond use. Thirsty and hot, many started to consume large quantities of water from their limited supply.
The counterattacking Japs started towards Topside from all directions. By 1500, with the assistance of the 3/503’s fire power, the 2/503 swiftly effected the relief as planned and established the regimental perimeter around Topside. At 1600, Fox Co reported to battalion that it was receiving heavy machine gun fire from the vicinity of Wheeler Battery. At this point, Pvt Lloyd G. McCarter (Fox Co) crossed thirty yards of open terrain under intense enemy fire, and at point-blank range silenced a machine gun with hand grenades. Out in front of Fox Co’s perimeter, dangling in their suspended harness which had caught in trees, were those few unfortunate paratrooper who will never know what it was like to make that final landing.
Scattered troopers, who had drifted from the drop zones, could be observed fighting their way back to rejoin the perimeter. Due to the lateness of the day, Maj Caskey, ordered the attack on Wheeler Battery and James Ravine canceled for the time being, and instead ordered positions to be consolidated for the evening. No logical conclusions could be arrived at as to how the Japanese defenders would attempt to destroy the invaders, or keep them from firmly establishing themselves on Topside. However, several captured prisoners revealed that Corregidor was commanded by Capt Ijn Itagaki of the Japanese Navy. He had approximately 6000 assorted troops to man its defense.
Later, captured staff personnel related how Capt Itagaki, after being informed of the approaching amphibious assault left his Command Post to go to an Observation Post near Breakwater Point. There he ran into a group of paratroopers and in the ensuing skirmish the Japanese Commander was killed. It was further learned that Capt Itagaki had been directed to look into the anti airborne defense of the island. He then announced to his subordinate commanders that an airborne landing would not take place because it could not take place. All these incidents added immeasurably to the confusion of the enemy.
First Night and Second Day on Corregidor
At dusk the enemy could be heard and seen advancing toward Topside. Each and every trooper had heard of or experienced those well known night infiltration tactics of the Japanese. They also knew that the firing of weapons, unnecessarily, would bring on an attack in force. About 2300, that evening the expected infiltration of the enemy started all through the battalion perimeter. The first firing on the infiltration, took place in Fox Co’s sector and was immediately answered with a volley of enemy grenades on attempts of penetration. The enemy mortar shells started to land on top of the buildings housing perimeter troops. The Nips were crawling all over the slopes not more elements of the battalion medical detachment, and clerks and supply personnel. Dog Co with their Command Post near Wheeler Point, tied in their left flank with the 1/503. Easy Co located in the vicinity of James Ravine, tied in their right flank with the 3/503.
Before dark automatic weapons were placed in sectors to cover the most likely avenues of approach into the perimeter. Mortars and artillery barrages were registered on those areas that were masked by slopes and cliffs. Commanding the high ground and being able to look down in the direction of the enemy, there was no doubt that the perimeter could hold under any type of attack that the enemy would attempt. At 1800 that evening, Maj Caskey and his staff started out on one of their many and frequent inspections of the company positions. The usual reports of enemy movement directly in front of the perimeter was received at all positions and as a result all personnel were alerted for an expected counterattack that night.
About 2300 that evening, the Japs started, what was to be their first organized attack, in any force, by letting off a series of explosions in the underground positions in Dog Co’s sector. Lt Joseph A. Turinsky, Dog Co Commander, called battalion at about 0200 on February 19 and reported unusual activity below and in front of his position had been noted, and requested illumination flares to light the area. Upon the battalion commander’s request, the naval supporting forces commenced to drop star shells in the area. The light revealed a large body of Japanese moving in between Dog and Fox Cos and startled them into a fanatical attack. The star shells were requested to continue until ordered stopped. The Japs turned and started to attack Dog Co from the rear. The first report of contact with the enemy came from the right flank. Then reports were received that penetrations were being attempted throughout the entire company sector. Immediately afterwards the attack materialized and communications, both wire and telephone between Dog Co and battalion ceased. It was suicide to attempt to reinforce Dog Co. Nips could now be seen moving everywhere. The artillery and mortar fires laid down did not seem to stop them.
A report from Fox Co revealed minor attempts of penetration of their perimeter. During the conversation, heavy fire broke out on the company’s left flank. Pvt McCarter seeing a large force of Japs attempting to avoid Fox Co’s fire, moved swiftly to an exposed position and in blocking their passageway drew their fire and forced the Japs to attack his position. Several men from Fox Co moved over to assist McCarter. The fanatical and superior force wounded McCarter and two other men. Out of ammunition, McCarter again drew the enemy fire as he exposed himself to get the much needed ammunition. Upon return he was wounded again but still continued to shout encouragement to all around him to carry on the fight. This continued until the break of dawn when the company Commander could reinforce McCarter’s position. Though wounded and weak McCarter stayed on until the enemy ceased to attack. Over 30 enemy dead could be counted in front of the position and for this heroic deed Pvt Lloyd McCarter was later awarded the Medal of Honor.
Rank and organization : Private, US Army, 503d Parachute Infantry Regiment
Place and date : Corregidor, Philippine Islands, 16-19 February 1945
Entered service at : Tacoma, Wash
Born : 11 May 1917, St. Maries, Idaho
G.O. No. : 77, 10 September 1945
Citation : He was a scout with the regiment which seized the fortress of Corregidor, Philippine Islands. Shortly after the initial parachute assault on 16 February 1945, he crossed 30 yards of open ground under intense enemy fire, and at pointblank range silenced a machine gun with hand grenades. On the afternoon of 18 February he killed 6 snipers. That evening, when a large force attempted to bypass his company, he voluntarily moved to an exposed area and opened fire. The enemy attacked his position repeatedly throughout the night and was each time repulsed. By 2 o’clock in the morning, all the men about him had been wounded; but shouting encouragement to his comrades and defiance at the enemy, he continued to bear the brunt of the attack, fearlessly exposing himself to locate enemy soldiers and then pouring heavy fire on them. He repeatedly crawled back to the American line to secure more ammunition. When his sub machine gun would no longer operate, he seized an automatic rifle and continued to inflict heavy casualties. This weapon, in turn, became too hot to use and, discarding it, he continued with an M-1 rifle. At dawn the enemy attacked with renewed intensity. Completely exposing himself to hostile fire, he stood erect to locate the most dangerous enemy positions. He was seriously wounded; but, though he had already killed more than 30 of the enemy, he refused to evacuate until he had pointed out immediate objectives for attack. Through his sustained and outstanding heroism in the face of grave and obvious danger, Pvt McCarter made outstanding contributions to the success of his company and to the recapture of Corregidor
Just about the time Fox Co was penetrated the 2/503’s CP was showered with enemy hand grenades. The Nips were all over the place. At the break of dawn the Navy ceased firing the star illuminating shells. Radio contact came in from Dog Co, and the Executive Officer stated that the enemy attack was stopped, but not without a great deal of loss; there were many dead and wounded and that reinforcements were needed immediately if they were to hold. He further requested additional first aid men and blood plasma. Maj Caskey then told Dog Co to hold at all cost. By 0630, a reinforced platoon, consisting of the battalion surgeon, engineers, mortar men, and clerks, proceeded by a close pattern of supporting artillery fire, began to fight their way to Dog Co. By the time this relief had reached Dog Co, over 150 Japanese were counted laying dead along the trail. The counterattack had been stopped at approximately 1100. Maj Caskey ordered Dog Co to secure its present position and prepare to move back to the 500 yard contour perimeter. Though we had accounted for over 200 enemy killed, our casualties had been heavy, Capt Charles H. Bradford, the Battalion Surgeon, performed the almost impossible job of caring for the sick and wounded in the midst of heavy fighting and hand-to-hand skirmishes. There were between 15 and 20 stretcher cases to be evacuated to the aid station on Topside. Our casualties were ten killed and twenty wounded. Among the dead were the Commander of Dog Co, his radio operator, and messenger. Maj Caskey, in remembering the Regimental Combat Team Commander’s terse operation order of Clear the damn Nips from your area, immediately ordered Easy Co to take James Ravine.
It was 0900 that same morning, when Easy Co advanced into the ravine. Passing through three unoccupied machine gun positions, the leading element suddenly opened fire on a mob of JapS streaming out of the entrance to the underground barracks located in the ravine. It was a slaughter. 65 Nips were killed before they stopped coming. Placing five gallon cans of Napalm and demolition charges into the ventilation shafts and tunnel entrance, a violent explosion was set off and fire ended all resistance in that area. Patrols were dispatched to locate immediately an electrical mine control system which controlled all mines along the beaches and off-shore. At 1620 that afternoon the control system was found and destroyed. 14 Japs and one man from Easy Co were killed in the skirmish that occurred during the destruction. Late in the afternoon of February 19, Maj Caskey ordered all companies to move back to contour level 500. Weary and tired from the lack of sleep the gallant men who had held their own against overwhelming odds moved back to the positions that they had occupied two days before. It was felt that the enemy had recovered from his initial surprise and the thin and expanded perimeter invited attack.
Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Day – Corregidor
The preceding night had been fairly quiet and early the next morning a systematic clean-up of our area was begun. The same pattern consisting of platoon and company sized patrols, supported by bazookas, flame throwers, demolitions, artillery, air and naval support moved out from the battalion perimeter as far as each day would allow, and return to the perimeter before nightfall. The Japs, unable to organize, continued to fight in isolated groups. Because of the small area of the perimeter, it was possible to assemble the Company Commanders in the evening to plan and coordinate the following day’s operation. As the patrols reached the beach areas, it was impossible to get at the enemy emplacements half-way up the cliffs that rose to a height of several hundred feet. The cliffs were sheer and jagged and afforded the enemy excellent cover as well as concealment. At the base of the cliffs, the beach would extend fifty feet in certain areas, to impassable areas in others. One of the battalion officers would board the destroyers to point out enemy positions. The destroyers would move in and fire point blank into the emplacements. Each salvo would send hundreds of tons of rocks roaring into the waters below. At the end of the seventh day, strong and aggressive patrol action finally enabled all companies to reach the water’s edge in their sectors.
From captured prisoners, S-2 learned between 175 and 200 Japs were holed-up in the vicinity of Searchlight and Wheeler Point. This force was the remains of the Endo Force that penetrated the 2/503’s perimeter on the night of the 18. At dawn of the 22, Capt Lawrence S. Brown, S-3, led Capt Hudson C. Hill, Easy Co Commander and his reconnaissance group to a vantage point overlooking Wheeler Point. From there they observed the terrain and made plans for Easy Co’s attack on the 23.
Last Day of Organized Resistance for the 2/503
Early on February 23, Easy Co moved through Charlie Co, 1/503 to clean out the last enemy strong hold at Wheeler and Searchlight Point. With a five minute softening of the objective by destroyers and an air strike by the air cover, Easy Co attacked and worked to a position around Searchlight Point reaching Wheeler Point with only five casualties and 59 enemy killed. As scheduled, the destroyers let loose with a salvo at 1255 that afternoon and pulverized the emplacements in Wheeler Point, followed by Easy Co’s immediate attack. Screaming, charging, Japanese hurled themselves at the attackers. One Jap Officer, swinging his shining saber, mortally wounded one of Easy Co’s men. Lt Emory Ball, in rushing to the wounded man’s assistance, caught a burst of machine gun fire in the chest and stomach. Staggering back toward the rear of the skirmish he fell in his blood stained tracks and died.
Easy Co in a final effort killed the remaining Japanese and by 1600 announced Wheeler Point secured. At 1700 on February 23, the Regimental Combat Team Commander ordered the 2/503 to take over the perimeter of all of Topside, and by nightfall, Maj Caskey, re-disposed his battalion to cover the western half of the island. On March 2, the operation was officially closed when the Rock Force Commander, Col George M. Jones, presented fortress Corregidor to the Commander-in-Chief, Gen Douglas MacArthur. To sum up the results of this battle : This operation clearly showed that parachute troops could be used under the most adverse condition. Even though the disadvantages of the vertical envelopment outweighed the advantages in the preliminary planning stages, the Japanese experience in 1942 had demonstrated that an amphibious assault on this island could be extremely costly. By landing on terrain of our own choosing, we could surprise and defeat the enemy before he was capable of reorganization. The enemy, by completely ruling out the possibility of an airborne assault in his defensive plans, enabled the 503-PRCT to do in 18 days what he had taken 4 months to do. His losses of 4497 killed, in comparison to our 209 killed during the same period, showed the high caliber of leadership, and aggressiveness that can be obtained from the American soldier by proper training and education
Corregidor is a shining example of perfect teamwork between air, land and naval forces. The re-taking of “The Rock” could not have been possible without the perfect coordination and planning of all three services. By General Order # 112, Headquarters US Army Forces in the Far East, dated May 8 1945, the 503-PIR-RCT was cited for outstanding performance of duty in action on Corregidor Island and under the provisions of Section IV, War Department, Circular Number 333 1943 awarded the Distinguished Unit Badge.
503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment (WW-2 Airborne)
54th Troop Carrier Squadron (LJ Militaria)
US XI Corps (Militaria Veterans PX)
Parachute Drop Corregidor (American Warrior)
462nd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion (503-PIR)
Medal of Honor (US Army Mil)
For all purposes :
European Center of Military History
Gunter ‘Doc Snafu’ Gillot
rue des Thiers 8
Email : gunter [at] eucmh.be
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(NB : Published for Good – March 2019)