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         The plan for retaking CORREGIDOR falls into four categories. The first is the preparation or softening up process. From 23 January until 15 February 3,128 tons of bombs fell on the Rock. While this was not a lot of bombs compared to the other theatres, when one considers the small area into which they were dropped, it was quite a saturation. No better way to illustrate the effectiveness of these bombings than to consider the antiaircraft fire received by our planes on the first run. Crews reported that ack ack was intense. On the day of the parachute drop, antiaircraft fire was light. (37) Another reason for these bombings was to keep the enemy off TOPSIDE during the daylight hours. Just before the jump, plans were made to bomb and strafe the island, a bombing and strafing line was planned (See Map D) so that strafing could go on Bottomside during the drop. Plans were made to have A-20s on stand-by with smoke, should it be needed. (38)

The next step in the plan is the air movement. There are several factors that must be carefully considered, these are the aircrafts available, the number of troops that are to be transported, the movement distance from the marshalling area to the drop zone. Naturally the meteorological conditions at the time must be considered. For the CORREGIDOR operation there were available 36 C-47 aircraft. The estimated flight time from MINDORO to the target was 1 hour and 15 minutes. The strength of the RCT was approximately 3000 men with their equipment. Thus we see the flight plan developing as 3 separate lifts since it is impractical to split battalion combat teams. (39)

The following are excerpts from FO No 9, Hq 503d RCT, dated 13 February 1945 and explain the tactical plan of the Commander. (40)

The 3d Battalion, 503d RCT with Battery A and one (1) platoon of Battery D, 462d F.A. Battalion and 3d Platoon 161 Airborne Engineer Company attached will:

(1) Drop on Fields A and B (See Map D) at 0830I and secure drop area.

(2)  Upon being relieved by the 2d Battalion, advance and seize the high ground approximately 600 yards NE of the Hospital. (See Map D)

(3) Support the amphibious landing of the 3d Battalion, 34th Infantry by fire.

(4) Effect contact with 3d Battalion, 34th.

The 2d Battalion with Battery B and one (1) platoon Battery D, 462d F.A. Battalion attached will:

(1) Drop on Fields A and B at 1215I and relieve the 3d Battalion from defense of the perimeter around the drop area.

(2) Exploit the terrain north and west of the Drop Zone.

The 1st Battalion with Battery C and one (1) platoon Battery D 462d F.A. Battalion attached will:

                 (1) Drop on Fields A and B on D + 2 at 0830I as RCT  Reserve.

                (2) Be prepared to exploit terrain south of the Drop Zones.

Regimental Headquarters Company, Service Company, Battalion Headquarters, 462d F.A., and the 161 Engineer Company (-) would drop with the 1st and 2d lift and perform normal duties of administration, communications, supply, fire direction, demolition and medical service. The Regimental Executive officer would come in with the 3d lift on D + 2. Executive officers of companies in the 2d and 3d lifts would jump with the 1st lift, so that they would be familiar with the situation and the area of operation of their company when it arrived. (41)

The 3d Battalion, 34th Infantry would make an overwater movement from MARIVELESE, and land on San Jose Beach (See Map D) on D + 1 at 1030I, seize and hold Malinta Hill, and make contact with the 503d on Topside. The 3d came under command of ROCK Force upon coming ashore. (42)

In the plan for the aerial assault, one of the basic principles of airborne operations must be omitted. If one looks at Fields A and B, he can readily see that these are the only drop zones on TOPSIDE, and that they are only 1,050 feet and 975 feet respectively. From this it can be seen that a variation from the normal must be used to get the troops on the two small fields. The plan for this was to have the aircraft split up into two columns as they approached the island. They were to fly in trail across A and B fields with 25 second intervals between plans. It was estimated that eight men could jump on each pass. To get the men on the field, the Jumpmaster must consider the prevailing wind which in this case was a headwind blowing 15-20 M.P.H. The altitude was 350 feet. With these factors in view, the Jumpmaster would have to delay his jump command over the go point so that the headwind wouldnt blow his men off the field. Plans were made for adjustment of altitudes and jumping signals from the control plane circling over the formation. (43)

In considering the aerial assault, we must keep in mind that the Japanese airforce was almost non-existent at this time and we had air cover throughout the flight.

The logistical support for the operation was as follows: Four days prior to D-Day, an advance element of three officers and fifty men would be sent to San Marcelino with equipment that would arrive by water. This detail would land at Mariveles with elements of the 39th Division. When the beach on CORREGIDOR was clear, they would land and set up a rock force supply dump on San Jose beach. All supplies arriving would be placed in this dump. Plans were also made for aerial supply from the rear base at MINDORO. These supplies would be placed in a dump on topside. (44)

The overall plan of the rock force Commander emerges in four phases, and it is in these four phases that the narration will be covered. They are: Phase I, The Aerial Assault on Topside. Phase II, The Amphibious Assault. Phase III, Destruction of the Enemy on Topside. Phase IV, Destruction of the Enemy East of MALINTA HILL. (45)

 

FINAL PREPARATION AND THE AIRLIFT (See Map A) (46)

 

On D-Day the 161st R.C.T. and the 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry went ashore at MARIVELES as planned. On MINDORO, last minute preparations were being made. Newsmen and photographers arrived, more briefings of pilots and jumpmasters were held. Aircraft were parked, last minute maintenance performed, and numbers were chalked on the planes. Parachutes and equipment bundles were issued. All bundles were rolled and checked for the last time. Weapons were cleaned and oiled. Ammunition was issued, each man carrying two W-P grenades and two fragmentation grenades. Down in the artillery, howitzers were cleaned and packed into parachutes. Additional information was received from XI Corps, Headquarters. Services for the faiths were available, with more than the usual numbers attending. Letters were written and carefully censored. Tents were struck, rolled and turned into S-4. Flight Manifests were made and turned into R.C.T. headquarters. The parking plan and flight plan was issued to the battalions and separate companies, according to SOP. An extra canteen was issued to each man along with four meals of K-ration. Each platoon leader took his platoon to the briefing room, and using the terrain model gave them the big picture, the company mission and the mission of the platoon. During the evening, captured Japanese film of the surrender of CORREGIDOR in 1942 was shown. The film showed the Japs mistreating American PWs and stomping the American flag into the ground. After waking up in the middle of the night as per usual and eating a breakfast of soggy pancakes and syrup, the first lift entrucked at 0600 and moved to ELMORE and BILL Air strips. By 0700 hours all troops were enplaned. The aircraft took off, made up their formation and winged their way toward CORREGIDOR. (47)

While the transports were closing on CORREGIDOR, B-24s and A-20s were bombing and strafing the island. These aircraft picked up light ack-ack, but immediately smothered it with machine gun fire. One flight of A-20s were on stand by with smoke, should the rock force commander call for it. The Navy also closed in for a few broadsides at the rock.

Veteran troops of the 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry were also busy, leading on their landing craft and making ready for their landing at 1030I. (48)

 

NARRATION

PHASE I, THE AERIAL ASSAULT

 

At 0825I, 16th February, troops at MARIVELES picked up tiny specks in the sky and all who were not engaged with the Nips sat down to watch one of the most spectacular shows of the Pacific War. At 0830I, the control ship of the formation was over CORREGIDOR. A-20s were making their last strafing run over topside. A curtain of dust hung over the whole island. The transports approached the island in two columns and at exactly 0833I the green light went on in the lead ship over B Field. (See Map E) The first paratrooper, Lieutenant Colonel John Erickson, Battalion Commander of the 3rd Battalion, counted off four seconds and stepped into thin air. The rest of his stick followed at split second intervals. Phase I had begun. The chutes had hardly opened before the troops were preparing for one of the roughest, most rugged landings, they would ever make. The same action was taking place on A Field. By 0850 the drop was completed and the planes were MINDORO bound for another load. (49)

The sky was clear, visibility unlimited, while down on the rock amid the underbrush, splintered trees, wrecked buildings, bomb crates, Japanese machine gun nests, caves and at the waters edge, troops of the RCT were beginning to assemble. It is during this stage of the assault that airborne troops are most vulnerable. Several troopers were blown over the cliffs and landed among the Japanese defenders. It was one of these groups, while fighting their way Topside, met and killed the Japanese Commander of the island near BREAKWATER POINT. (See Map E) This was confirmed by a PW captured several days later. It was at this stage that prior training of service and administrative personnel, in close combat, came to the front. The rock force CP was established in the barracks on the north side of the parade ground. (See Map E) Communications, both radio and wire, were in to the 3rd Battalion, who had formed a perimeter defense around Topside, running generally along the 500 foot contour line. (See Map E) The Regimental Aid station was also set up in the barracks. Medical personnel from 3rd Battalion, Regimental Headquarters, and Artillery were pooled. All these units used the same facilities since they were so close together. Casualties began to pour in, mostly jump injuries. Regimental Headquarters and Service Company had to furnish extra men to help the Medics carry litters and recover medical bundles dropped from the planes. Even with this augmentation, there were not enough men to do the job right. Few medical records were kept during the first few days. It is better to help a wounded man, than to have a record of a dead one. Jump casualties were not as high as had been expected. It was estimated that 15% of the first lift were casualties. It was several days before an accurate figure was available. (50)

All during this time, the rock force CP was under small arms fire from both inside and outside of the perimeter. The Commander was then handed another problem, the wind had increased to about 25 miles per hour by 1015. The second lift due at 1230 might not be able to jump. At 1100 hours the American flag was run up on Topside under a hail of machine gun and sniper fire. At 1240, the Second Battalion began to drop, the wind had died down to about 10 miles per hour. They had plenty of other trouble though, the Japs were now awake and as with the first lift, they jumped into light anti-aircraft fire which damaged some planes and wounded a few personnel in the planes. Experience in the first lift had showed that it was better to delay six seconds after the go point. As a result, only a few jumpers drifted over the cliffs and into the sea. Most of the men landed well up on Topside. The jumpers in the air came in for more ground fire than the first lift, which had caught the Japs completely by surprise. Our Small Arms fire silenced some of the Jap guns, but it was difficult to fire since our troops were landing among the Japs. Several men of the second lift landed shooting and some were killed before they got out of the parachute harness. (51)

When the Second Battalion reported into the CP Net, they relieved the 3rd Battalion on the perimeter, which left them free to start the consolidation of Topside. For the remainder of the day, the 3rd Battalion fought as companies and platoons. Their patrols spread out like the fingers on your hands and with the help of Naval gunfire began to probe the Japanese positions.

H Company under Captain Joe Conway pushed a platoon out on the knob about 700 yards southeast of BATTERY POINT. (See Map E) Here they found some very fine defensive positions. Why the Japs gave up these positions without a fight is known only to the oriental mind. G Company moved into the old American AA emplacements, 500 yards west of the south dock. (See Map E) It was from the above positions, that the amphibious assault was supported by fire. Fifty caliber machine guns were set up in the buildings on the east side of B field to help with this task. (See Map E) While G and H Companies were supporting the landing of the 34th, 3rd Battalion Headquarters, Regimental Headquarters, and Service Companies were mopping up inside perimeter on Topside. G Company in their positions could place fire on the road from Bottomside to Topside. (52)

By 1100 hours part of the field artillery battery was assembled and ready to fire for the force. The only problems they had were securing their ammunition bundles and firing their howitzers under sniper fire. During the day, their guns were used as a direct fire weapon, to silence an enemy position, or fire HE into a cave or building. (53)

During the first lift, one of our planes carrying a demolition section from Regimental Headquarters Company developed engine trouble, and had to drop out of formation while out at sea. A message from the Command Ship of the second lift informed the Rock commander that the plane had made land over LUZON and that the troops had bailed out near SAN MARCELINO. It was later learned, that the troops were picked up, flown back to MINDORO, and came in with the 1st Battalion.

By 1500 hours, the Rock Force Commander felt the situation was well in hand. He requested permission for the third drop to be cancelled. He recommended that XI Corps arrange for the planes to fly over CORREGIDOR, drop their bundles on A Field, land at SAN MARCELINO, (See Map B) and come in by landing craft on SAN JOSE beach. This plan would give Colonel Jones one Battalion Combat Team, intact, without the causalities they would sustain on a parachute drop. The XI Corps Commander concurred with the recommendation, and made necessary arrangement for the change in plan.

At 1700 hours the 3rd Battalion, less G and H Companies, pulled back into the perimeter on Topside. Machine guns were put into position, positions checked, artillery and mortars registered, and coordination had been made for destroyers to fire star shells during the night for illumination. At this stage, he who controlled Topside, controlled CORREGIDOR.

Rock Force Headquarters began to take on the look of all Headquarters. The place had been swept out, a few desks and chairs were found, one being carved teak wood, quite out of place but substantial. Maps were made up on boards and reports were coming in. The place was still under sporadic small arms fire. Documents taken from seven dead Japs near the barracks gave the first identification of the enemy on the Island. They were members of a naval unit, all were well fed and equipped. (54)

During the early part of the evening, a staff meeting was held to lay plans for the coming of daylight. It seems as though daylight was always a scarce substance during this operation. The plans were simple. Each Battalion was given a sector and told to kill all of the Japs in it. From this meeting came the first fairly accurate casualty report for the drop and for the subsequent action. The reported figure of jump injuries was 161, but more were expected to come in for treatment when things quieted down a bit. This proved to be true, the final figures on jump casualties were as follows 3 KIA on jump due to malfunctions of the parachute, 2 KIA on striking obstacles on landing, KIA before they were out of their harness 8, and injuries running from light to severe - 203. Nine men were blown over the cliffs into the water and were picked up by PT boats. A total of 11%. (55) At this briefing and all others called by the Rock Force Commander, he followed a set pattern. He merely gave each Battalion a mission; he then asked the Battalion Commander what help he wanted to do the job. It then became the Task Force Commanders job to coordinate the firepower and logistical support necessary to complete the job. This method proved very effective. At this meeting, a status of weapons was rendered. The F.A. had only 5 howitzers in action, out of 9 dropped, 2 were damaged on landing, and 2 more were under such heavy enemy fire that they were unable to retrieve them the first day. (56) Several 81 mortars and light machine guns were damaged on hitting rocks or other obstacles on landing.

Airstrikes were teed up for the 17th. and plans were made to cover all of Topside with fire while the 1st Battalion (3rd lift) was dropping their bundles on A field.

During the night, the enemy was seen moving about apparently trying to get organized. They probed our perimeters all night, and a few rounds of mortar fire fell on our position. Communication wires were cut and men were hit. The Medics worked as best they could, but movement at night was restricted.

PHASE II, THE AMPHIBIOUS ASSAULT

 

At 1030I, the 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry hit SAN JOSE beach (See Map E) after a terrific bombardment by rocket ships, cruisers, and destroyers, they crossed the beach under enemy fire and lost several vehicles to enemy mines along the waters edge. One of these vehicles contained the radio equipment with which Rock Force was to communicate with XI Corps. When this information was sent to the Task Force Commander, it was not news. The 3rd Battalion, 503d supporting the landing by fire had seen the incident and reported it to the Commander. The Battalion Commander of the 34th called for Naval gunfire which silenced some of the automatic fire his unit was getting while crossing the open beach. The 34th then scaled the 300-foot MALINTA HILL. By 1330 this fine Battalion was astride the hill and had the Island cut into two parts. Much heavy close-in fighting was to take place for them to stay on MALINTA. Part of their mission was accomplished. The link-up with the paratroopers on Topside was easier said than done. Contact under fire was made with the 3rd Battalion 503, but it was to be late on the 18th before the road to Topside was opened. (57) During the night, the 34th dug in as best they could. They, too, were having trouble with prowlers. During the night, they had to drive back an insane Bonzai charge. Some of the Japs were using sawed-off shotguns captured from the Americans in 1942. An undetermined number of the enemy was observed attempting to move west along the road north of MALINTA HILL. (See Map E) Fire was called down on them with unobserved results. All in all, there were few men who slept on CORREGIDOR during the night 16 February, 1945. (58)

PHASE III, DESTRUCTION OF THE ENEMY ON TOPSIDE

 

Daylight of the 17th found the dead of both sides laying out in the open. When the sun came up they began to smell and collect flies. Our dead were picked up, but no one worried about the Japs. The wounded were moved to the aid station, K rations were eaten, and some of the last canteen of water was drunk. A silence settled over some sections of the Island, while all hell broke loose at others, as our patrols encountered the enemy. During the night, the Japs had moved back into the positions that they had been driven from the day before. It was now apparent that each position occupied would have to be destroyed, and every cave and pillbox sealed off. So on the 17th was set the pattern that systematically destroyed the Nip on CORREGIDOR. (59)

At 0830 the 3rd lift was over A field, dropping their equipment bundles. This flight also came in for ground fire from the enemy. The 1st Battalion landed at SAN MARCELINO, (See Map B) were trucked to SUBIC BAY (See Map B), and via destroyers to SAN JOSE beach on CORREGIDOR. (See Map E) This landing was also contested by heavy automatic and sniper fire which pinned the Battalion on the beach until Naval gunfire silenced it. After crossing the beach and reorganizing the Battalion, it was decided that they would go into a perimeter defense on Bottomside. (See Map F) The time was 1630 and it was getting dark. (60)

 

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Anti-aircraft fire against the first drop was light.

 

The JAF was non-existent in the skies, we had aor-cover throughout.

 

 


3,128 tons of bombs were dropped in the 3 weeks prior to the drop. Given the small area, it was quite a saturation.

The drop zones were 1050 and 975 feet long, wide enough though for only a single aircraft.  

 

 

The prevailing headwinds were blowing 15-20 mph.

 

The jumpmaster had to delay the command several seconds lest the winds blow the stick far short.

 

Battery Wheeler was the "go" point at "A" but the count had to be at least seven seconds beyond it.

 

 

Adjustment of altitude and counts were made from a control aircraft overhead.

 

Battery Wheeler was determined as a "go" point as it was the landmark most clearly visible on the approach. The name of the Battery, though, was unknown to us. It was referred to as "the big battery."

 

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The reception for the second lift was much hotter than that of the first.

Experience in the first lift had showed it was better to delay for six seconds after the go point.

The "F" Co. had an experienced  jumpmaster control each of the three sticks. The  others did not, and suffered higher casualties as a consequence.  (Bill Calhoun, Bless 'em All.)

 

It wad difficult to fire since our troops were landing amongst the Japs. Several men landed shooting and some were killed still in their harness.

 

The line of buildings adjacent to the beltline road became the perimeter - the Japanese controlled the area on one side of the building, and we had the other.

 

With the arrival of  2d Bn.,  3d Bn. was freed from guarding the perimeter and began to patrol aggressively as companies and platoons.

 

 

The search for bundles was ongoing.  A full mortar was lost, and also a 50 cal MG.

 

While "G" and "H" supported the landings of the 34th, 3d Bn HQ, Regimental HQ and Service Companies mopped up inside the perimeter on Topside.

 

By 1700 hrs, the 3d Bn, less "G" and "h" Companies pulled back within the perimeter on Topside.

 

 

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