On to Corregidor —Part VI

Battery A moved to Corregidor on 17 February 1942. Remaining on Bataan was the Marine Air Warning Detachment, the USAFFE Guard, and Battery C. Disease became a significant problem: malaria began to take its toll, along with the heat and insufficient food to keep the Marines going.

Washington relieved MacArthur of his duties in the Philippines on 22 February. Major General Wainwright assumed command of the newly designated US Forces in the Philippines (USFIP).

The Japanese knew what they were doing: cleverly timed aerial bombardments kept the Marines from getting badly needed rest. After 24 March, air raids increased in their frequency; throughout the night, Japanese artillery harassed the Marines every 25 to 30 minutes. In one typical 24-hour period, two periods of shelling began at 0950 and 1450; six bombing raids began at 0400 and spaced throughout the day. PFC Kenneth R. Paulin of Company M was killed during the day by shellfire from the Cavite shore. Bombing raids ended at 2205, but began again at 0100.

Corregidor Marines 003By the end of March 1942, rations had been reduced to 1,000 calories per day and Wainwright discovered that all food stores on Corregidor would run out by the end of June. He radioed to MacArthur in Australia, but there was nothing MacArthur could do. No ship could get through the Japanese line. At the beginning of May, the defenders of Corregidor consumed only 30 ounces of food per day: 8 ounces of meat, 7 ounces of flour, 4 ounces of vegetables, 3 ounces of beans and cereals, 2 ounces of rice, and 3 ounces of milk. PFC Ben Lohman recalled that they ate mule meat whenever the Japanese bombing killed one of the animals. In the 4th Marines, some of the men had lost 40 pounds as a result of reduced rations and the stress of Japanese bombardments.

Very slowly, the Marines were being deprived of the energy needed to resist the Japanese assault.

Bataan fell to the Japanese on 9 April 1942; 75,000 American soldiers were taken prisoner.

As men subsequently became available from disintegrating units, they were integrated into the 4th Marines and assigned to support the beach defense. Fifty-eight sailors from the USS Canopus were organized into a reserve company and received training by Marine platoon sergeants. Ten Marines and an additional 40 sailors were added to the company after the fall of Bataan. The largest group of reinforcements involved 72 officers and 1,173 enlisted men from more than 50 different organizations —all of these assigned to the 4th Marines, which may have transformed the regiment into the most unusual organizations in the history of the Corps. They involved Navy, Army, Philippine Army, and Philippine Scouts. Ordinary seamen found themselves alongside Army engineers, tankers, and aviation mechanics. By the end of April, the 4th Marines numbered 229 officers, 3,770 men —of whom only 1,500 were Marines.

Lieutenant Colonel Beecher now commanded 360 Marines, 500 Filipinos, 100 American sailors, and 100 American soldiers. He armed them with the 1903 Springfield rifle, hand grenades, Browning Automatic Rifles (BAR), four 37mm guns, and eight 30-caliber machine guns. A few mortars and .50 machine guns were also available from cannibalized ships. But all these weapons wouldn’t do these defenders any good if the troops became ineffective due to a lack of fresh water.

Continued next week