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artillery forward observer methods, capabilities and limitations of the Engineer equipment.

          The small unit training included the Engineer assault team, ways and means of tieing in the 50 caliber machine guns in the Field Artillery Battalion, also the use of the 75 Pack Howitzer as a direct fire weapon.  Every weapon in the RCT was fired by all personnel in the command including cooks and clerks.  All replacements were given additional jump training to bring them up to date on the SOP for jumping with equipment.  (18)  In all of the above training, initiative on the part of the platoon and squad leaders was emphasized.

          It was at this time that the unit was blessed with the assignment of an American Japanese interpreter.  The Intelligence Section already contained three Filipinos, who had been qualified as parachutist while on NOEMFOOR.  (19)

          The Red Cross activities were going full blast, movies were shown every night, the “Hang Fire” court martials were brought up to date.  The RCT continued with the normal tough physical training program, which is a never ending cycle in a parachute organization.

          The morale was high, the esprit-de-corps was great.  It was at this stage on the 3rd of February 1945, the 503d was alerted for the probable mission of seizing NICHOLS FIELD on LUZON.  (20)  Preparations following the SOP were immediately started, these included checking and replacing combat equipment, and detail planning peculiar to a parachute operation.  However, before too much could be done, the mission was cancelled, U.S. Troops were advancing too fast on NICHOLS FIELD.  (21)

          On 8 February, the RCT was again alerted this time for the mission of seizing and securing CORREGIDOR ISLAND.  (See Map B)  (22)  Again the big SOP wheel began to grind, a tremor of excitement ran through the RCT staff as hasty estimates of the situation was made.  Eyebrows were lifted as it did not take a detail reconnaissance to tell that this would be a tough as a “K” ration to digest.

          CORREGIDOR is a formidable looking obstacle as it lies at the entrance of MANILA BAY with its tail running eastward into the inlet.  (See Map B)  The head, or the west end of the island, is known as TOPSIDE.  (See Map C)  It is a 500 foot plateau that drops off abruptly into cliffs and ravines which run down to the edge of the sea.  This part of the island is less that 2,500 yards in diameter.  The narrow center part of the island is known as BOTTOMSIDE.  It is about 500 yards wide and rises to only 25 feet.  On the east and standing guard over Bottomside is steep rugged MALINTA HILL which rises to over 400 feet.  This hill, which is over 500 yards long and 300 yards wide, covers a huge tunnel which runs through its base from west to east.  From MALINTA HILL to the east is a narrow strip of land about 3,000 yards long, the highest point on this narrowing stretch is 150 feet.  This strip also drops off into cliffs and small ravines down to the water’s edge.  There are indeed few level stretches on the island, and the whole mass is covered with a heavy low tropical growth.  (23)

          The terrain on CORREGIDOR lends its self to the development of an almost impregnable fortress.  It was to this point that the United States had worked for almost 40 years prior to the fall of the island to the Japs.  American Engineers had built well.  Great tunnels had been dug in solid rock, powder magazines had been constructed of reinforced concrete, underground storage plants and elaborate observation posts had been built.  Large and powerful multi-gun batteries had been installed on the island.  (24)  To these installations had been added an elaborate system of mutually supporting pillboxes with weapons of all types and calibers sited to cover all approaches to the few beaches on the island.  While the bombardments of 1942 and the bombardment by the American Airforce in January 1945 had destroyed some of the larger installations, it only added to the camouflage of the caves, bunkers, and rifle pits which are the main obstacles of the Infantryman.

          Photo interpretation revealed that the Japs had done little to improve or develop the island.  The whole place was a mass of splintered trees, tangled undergrowth, wrecked buildings, bomb craters, pieces of steel, tin roofing, large overturned guns, and big hunks of concrete.  However, a few new tunnels, pillboxes and weapons pits did show up.  The photo also showed that the landing field on the eastern end of the island had not been used.  (25)

          Captured documents established the presence of the 3d Battalion, 22nd F.A. Regiment (less 1 Battery).  These troops were equipped with 150mm guns and totaled about 500 men.  The estimated enemy strength on CORREGIDOR was 850 and was considered a minimum figure.  (26)  Communications were in to Fort Hughs, Drum, and to Manila.  Land mines were reported from MORRISON POINT to ROCK POINT.  (See Map C)  Guerrilla reports indicated that CORREGIDOR was well stocked with food and ammunition.

 

COORDINATION

         

            Before going into the plan of the “Rock Force” Commander, the coordination prior to the operation must be briefly considered, as it plays a big part in helping the Force Commander arrive at his final plan.

          The same order that alerted the RCT also directed the Commander, Colonel George M. Jones, to report to Sixth Army Headquarters.  Here he was to attend one of the many briefings that was held prior to and after the operation was underway.  From the beginning, these conferences were unique.  There was a sentimental aspect about retaking the “ROCK.”  Everyone wanted to get in on the show and do what he could.  This spirit ran down the chain of command from General MacArthur to the riflemen, sailors, and tail gunners on the aircraft.

          XI Corps arranged the details necessary for naval gunfire support and coordinated the employment of the 503d RCT with the Eighth Army, who would mount the RCT, and the 5th Airforce who would lift the unit,  (27)  Conferences were held at Sixth Army on 6 February, at XI Corps on 7 February, and on the flagships of the Commander Amphibious Group Nine on the 8th of February.  Those attending the last conference included Commanding General XI Corps, Commanding General 34th Troop Carrier Wing, Commander Seventh Amphibious Force, Commander Cruisers Seventh Fleet, Commander Amphibious Group Nine, G-3 XI Corps, A-3 Fifth Airforce, Commanding Officer of the “Rock Force,” (503d RCT Commander) Airborne Liaison Officer, Sixth Army, and various staff officers assigned to the above commands.  Further coordination of naval and Far East Airforce was conducted between airforce and air liaison offices of the Navy at MINDORO.  Detail plans for the airlift were worked out with the 503d Commanding Officer and Commanding Officer 317th Troop Carrier Group.  The 317th was an old friend of the 503d, having consumed many kegs of Australian beer together at PORT MORESBY in late 1943.  The Commanding Officer, 317th was a personal friend of the RCT Commander.  (28)

          Major General William F. Marquat was sent by General MacArthur to wish the unit good luck and to help out in the briefing.  General Marquat was staff advisor on Coast Artillery matters and had been stationed on CORREGIDOR during 1942, leaving the Island with General MacArthur. He was able to point out on the terrain model of the island (furnished by Sixth Army) exact locations of installations and give a vivid picture of what they looked like on the inside.  (29)

          There were present in the RCT, four enlisted men and two officers who had been stationed on CORREGIDOR before the war.  These men were interrogated and additional information brought to light.  (30)

          Photographs taken as late as 7 February were available for study and there were enough maps and aerial photos for every officer and ten NCO in the “Rock Force.”  (31)

          An airborne assault usually follows a set pattern, the reconnaissance, the softening up or bombing phase, the drop and the build up.  In this operation, we find the bombing and reconnaissance going on at the same time.  To minimize the number of reconnaissance aircraft over the target, all commanders and their staff down to and including companies were allowed to go on a regular bombing mission over the Island, or on another mission that would take them near enough to the Island to see it.  Pilots from the Troop Carrier units who were to fly the paratroopers also went along on these bombing missions, some flying as co-pilot.  (32)

          The 317th Group flew into MINDORO and set up a temporary base.  The Staff of the 317th almost lived with the Headquarters of the 503d RCT.  Daily conferences were held.  TC pilots who had not flown paratroopers were given additional training.  They were also brought up to date regarding the SOP for Jumpmaster pilot coordination during the jump.  (33)

          Staff Officers from the RCT contacted naval liaison officers on MINDORO, and were oriented as to the capabilities and procedure for naval gunfire during the coming operation.  Arrangements were made to have PT boats stand by during the drop to pick up troops should they miss the island on the jump.  Air sea rescue during the air lift was also laid on.  (34)

          Our communications personnel contacted the 592 JASCO Detachment, and the 6th Air Support Party to tie up communications.  It was through these people that some of the best support ever given an Infantryman in combat, was coordinated.  (35)

          The author has purposely mentioned the coordination in this monograph to show the great number of personal contacts.  These contacts were made so that each Commander would know exactly what was expected of him.  He would also know enough about the other Services or Unit so that plans could be changed easily.

 

THE PLAN OF THE ROCK FORCE COMMANDER

   Before going into the plan of the Commander, consideration must be given to the tools that were available for the job.  The following list is the order of battle of the “Rock Force.” (36)

         

Ground Troops 

2962

(1)

503d RCT

a.

503d Parachute Regiment

b.

462d Parachute Field Artillery Battalion

c.

161 Airborne Engineer Company

(2) 3d Battalion, 34th Infantry Reinforced by: 

1396

a.

3d Platoon AT Company 34th Infantry

b.

3d Platoon Cannon Company 34th Infantry

(3)

2d Battalion, 151 Infantry (relieved 3d Bn, 34 Inf)

(4)

Eighteenth Portable Surgical Hospital (reinforced)

(5)

174 Ordinance Service Detachment (Bomb Disposal)

(6)

Detachment 592 EB & SR

(7)

Detachment 98th Signal Battalion

(8)

Detachment 1st Platoon, 503d Tank Company

(9)

Detachment 592 JASCO

(10)

Detachment 6th ASP

Naval Forces

(1)

Detachment Task Force 78.3

Air Forces

(1)

Elements of Fifth Airforce

(2)

317th TC Group

Total for “Rock Force” D+1

4560

 

          The 503d Parachute Regiment was organized into three Battalions, a Regimental Headquarters Company, and a Service Company.  Each Battalion contained a Headquarters Company in which was found the communications platoon, the 81 mortar platoon of 4 mortars, and a light machine gun platoon of       12 guns.  The T/O strength of the parachute rifle company was eight officers and 119 E.M.  There were 3 rifle platoons of 3 squads each, and a weapons platoon with 3 60mm mortar squads in each company.  There were three litter companies in each battalion.  This organization was not according to the T/O then in effect, but the Regiment had found this organization more effective and had been using it for over fifteen months.  Regimental Headquarters Company had a Demolitions platoon and a Communications platoon.  Services Company contained the Parachute Maintenance Platoon.

         

1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6  |   7

 

All combat equipment had to be checked, and replaced if necessary.

Whenever an Operation was announced, morale would be at an all-time high. If the Op was cancelled, it would hit the floor.

 

Voices of Experience

 

The T-5 harness did not have a quick release mechanism. Above it went the Mae West, and on top of that, a reserve chute. 

Unidentified

 

Mind the jewels.

 

Wolinski's film leader on the C-47

 

Corregidor is in the direction of "there!"


With our private thoughts.

 

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Some slept - though it wasn't a long flight.

 

It was best for the man with the TSMG to lead a stick.


The first man to jump, though, would be L.C. John Erickson, Bn CO of the 3d Bn.

 

 

 

 

Sky clear, visibility unlimited.

 

Corregidor below!

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