observer methods, capabilities and limitations of the Engineer
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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,
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.
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.
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.”
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
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.
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.
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
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)
462d Parachute Field
Battalion, 34th Infantry Reinforced by:
3d Platoon AT
Company 34th Infantry
3d Platoon Cannon
Company 34th Infantry
Battalion, 151 Infantry (relieved 3d Bn, 34 Inf)
Eighteenth Portable Surgical Hospital (reinforced)
Service Detachment (Bomb Disposal)
Detachment 592 EB &
Platoon, 503d Tank Company
Detachment 592 JASCO
Detachment 6th ASP
Elements of Fifth
“Rock Force” D+1
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
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
Services Company contained the Parachute Maintenance Platoon.