On to Corregidor —Part III

Luzon Manila Bay 1942On 12 December 1941, IJA troops made another landing in southeastern Luzon. Mid-morning, 4th Marines headquarters received notice of approaching enemy aircraft. An air raid was sounded, but after five minutes no aircraft appeared and field music sounded, “secure.” Suddenly, the roar of Japanese aircraft was heard. Apparently, seven fighters followed in a flight of PBY aircraft of Navy Patrol Wing 10 and, as these aircraft touched down, initiated their attack. All of the PBYs were soon in flames. The Japanese then turned toward Olongapo.

Marines at Olongapo opened fire on the Japanese aircraft with automatic rifles, rifles, and light machineguns, but had little effect. One Marine recounted, “The Japanese weren’t very impressed with our marksmanship; I’ve never seen more casual staffing runs than theirs.”

According to archivist J. Michael Miller, “Private First Class Thomas S. Allender was stationed on the water tower armed with a .30 caliber machine gun and soon engaged Japanese aircraft as they strafed the Navy Yard. ‘That god-dam plane was shooting at him, he’d run around to the other side of the tank and the guy would go by,’ recalled Master Technical Sergeant Ivan L. Buster, ‘and then the guy would come back and he’d run around to the other side of the tank again.’ Allender remained on the tower for the entire raid untouched, although the tank itself was riddled with machine gun fire, ‘with water spraying everywhere.’ A Marine gunnery sergeant lay in a ditch on his back firing his .45 pistol at the aircraft on their strafing runs. When asked why he was firing at all, he said, ‘This makes me feel better.’”

Bombers returned to Olongapo on 13 December dropping their loads on the Navy Yard and inside an adjacent town. No installations were actually hit, but bombs did straddle the regimental hospital located near the river. The Japanese did manage to kill another 13 civilians and wound 40 more. After this bombing, the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines moved to the hills on the Manila Road, five miles outside the Navy Yard. Elements of the battalion were rushed to beach near Calapacuan Point to repel a Japanese landing on several occasions, but all of these were false alarms. Lieutenant Colonel Anderson ordered his Marines to construct permanent defensive positions along Mauquinaya Beach; he calmed his Marines by telling them, “Don’t worry men, the Japs got nothing bigger than 8-inch shells.” The Marines also coordinated with the Philippine Division in setting up blocking positions on the Manila Road at Mount Panaigar. It wouldn’t be enough.

On 22 December, the 48th Division, Imperial Japanese Army landed north of Olongapo at Lingayen; most of the 2nd Battalion returned to protect the Naval Station and it wasn’t long before the IJA crushed the defenders. Two days later another major force came ashore, the 16th Division, IJA landing just 60 miles from Manila. Douglas MacArthur, commanding US Army Forces Far East (USAFFE) withdrew to the peninsula of Bataan.

Note: The intended use of Marines in the joint defense plan for the Philippines called for the transfer of the 4th Marine Regiment to Army operational control. Admiral Hart believed that experience level of Marine Corps officers and NCOs made the 4th Marine Regiment the strongest infantry regiment in the Philippines. He reminded MacArthur of this in a letter dated 8 December 1941, but MacArthur only wanted a single battalion of Marines to guard his headquarters in Manila.

Continued next week

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Retired Marine, historian, writer.

One thought on “On to Corregidor —Part III”

  1. While undermanned and ill-equipped, the stuff Marines are prized for shined brightly here. Their bravery while confronting death is legendary and this shows it. Thank you for sharing Part 3.


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