FROM SHANGHAI TO CORREGIDOR: Marines in the Defense of the Philippines
by J. Michael Miller
At 1000, 26 December, the 4th Marines began to move
to Corregidor. More than 400 Marines of the 1st Separate Marine
Battalion were loaded on board lighters and taken across the channel.
They were then transported by narrow gauge railway to Middleside
Barracks. The forward echelon of the Headquarters and Service Companies
and the 2d Battalion loaded on a minesweeper and lighters just after
darkness the following day. Shortly after midnight on 27 December, the
336 Marines and their equipment were completely unloaded on
Two days later at 2010, the 1st Battalion and the
remainder of the regiment completed the transfer to Corregidor's North
Dock. A 1st Battalion Marine private busily carried a box of .30-caliber
ammunition weighing more than 96 pounds to the dock. Lieutenant Colonel
Beecher stepped in front of the sweating Marine and took the box out of
his hands. He then dropped the ammunition off the dock into the water.
The private stared dumbfounded as Beecher informed him, "You're carrying
blanks; we are not using them anymore." The 4th took six months of
rations for 2,000 men, 10 units of fire for all weapons, a two-year
supply of summer clothing, and medicines and equipment for a 100-bed
hospital, to Corregidor.
members of the 4th Marines pose for the camera on Corregidor. All
Marines were required to carry their gas masks at all times should the
Japanese use chemical agents. Department of Defense Photo (USMC)
Marines were first quartered in the concrete barracks
on Middleside. When they inquired of their Army comrades about
protection from bombing, they were assured the barracks were bombproof.
Captain John Clark wrote later, "A feeling of safety and security came
over us as we reached the Rock. We were told it was impregnable, and
that we had nothing to fear from Japanese attack."
At 0800, 29 December, Colonel Howard reported to
Major General George F. Moore, commanding the Harbor Defenses of Manila
and Subic Bays. He was immediately appointed commanding officer of beach
defense, Corregidor. Howard then began a prompt inspection of the
current beach defenses.
At 1140 that same day a flight
of Japanese aircraft
approached Corregidor. Air-raid sirens sounded, but most of the 4th
Marines paid little attention to them, believing in the safety of
Corregidor's antiaircraft defenses. Lieutenant Sidney Jenkins
remembered, "bombs screaming to earth with shattering explosions, the
crack of AA guns, the neat 'plop plop' of the AA shells bursting all
over the sky . . . there we were, the whole regiment flat on our bellies
on the lower deck of Middleside Barracks."
Japanese aircraft prepare to bomb
Photo courtesy of
Dr. Diosdado M. Yap
Marines in the upper decks of Middleside Barracks
sprinted for the lower deck for protection. Most of the bombs that hit
the building exploded on the second and third decks, but Private First
Class Don Thompson and 20 other Marines on the first deck felt an
explosion and a shower of cement dust. He looked up and saw blue sky
though a hole in the ceiling of the supposedly bombproof barracks. Bombs
continued to fall for the next two hours. Corporal Verle W. Murphy died
of multiple wounds to the head and chest while trying to clear the
building, and nine Marines were wounded in the attack.
Private First Class Charles R.
Greer and Private
Alexander Katchuck noticed two wounded men in an abandoned truck. Greer
and Katchuck left their shelter and drove the truck to the hospital
despite the falling bombs. They were awarded Silver Star Medals, the
first Marines to be awarded an Army decoration in
World War II, and the
first to be mentioned in General MacArthur's dispatches.
Bombs destroyed or damaged the
batteries, Topside and Middleside Barracks, the Navy fuel depot, and the
officers club. Smoke cast a black pall over the island as numerous
wooden buildings caught fire. Power, water, and communication lines were
disrupted. Total casualties on Corregidor mounted
to 20 killed and 80
After the Japanese bombing ended, the 4th Marines was
assembled in front of the barracks to ascertain casualties. As the men
stood in formation, someone dragged a sea bag down the stairs of the
barracks, which made a noise like falling bombs. Instantly, the men
broke and ran "pell mell back into the safe barracks" only to reemerge
laughing once the origin of the sound was determined.
Japanese bombers reappeared over Corregidor at 1134,
2 January and bombed the island for more than three hours. Private First
Class Verdie G. Andrews was killed by debris from
the explosions and six
other Marines were wounded. Periodic bombing continued over the next
four days resulting in one Marine killed and another wounded. Only two
more raids occurred in January allowing the Marines to improve their
positions considerably. On 29 January Japanese aircraft dropped only
propaganda leaflets which greatly amused the beach defenders.