FROM SHANGHAI TO CORREGIDOR: Marines in the Defense of the Philippines
by J. Michael Miller
On 29-30 December the 4th Marines moved from its
barracks into field positions. The 1st Battalion took the east sector,
from Malinta Hill to Hooker Point on the tail of the island. The 2d
Battalion moved into the west sector and the 1st Separate Marine
Battalion was assigned the middle sector. On 1 January 1941, this
battalion was officially redesignated 3d Battalion, 4th Marines. Forty
four Marines of the battalion were detailed for antiaircraft defense for
Batteries Wheeler and Cheney. In addition, 46 Marines in two platoons of
the 3d Battalion under Second Lieutenant Frederick A. Hagen were
deployed with .30- and .50-caliber machine guns to provide antiaircraft
fire and beach defense of Fort Hughes. Another 14 Marines of the 3d
Battalion were deployed to Fort Drum for the same purpose.
Work began rapidly on construction of beach defenses.
Typical was the reaction of Lieutenant Colonel Beecher when he first
inspected his defense area. He later wrote, "The task confronting us was
appalling. With 350 men there were 3,500 to 4,000 yards of possible
landing beach to defend." The Marines began to build barbed wire
barriers, tank traps, bunkers, and trench systems. Working parties began
at first light in the morning and halted only at noon for a rest period
in place of lunch. The work progressed well, slowed only by Japanese
shelling, bombing, and darkness.
Middleside Barracks, March 1942. The barracks housed the
reserve company of the 2d Battalion, 4th Marines during the
siege. Austin C.Shofner Papers, Personal Papers Collection,
Tools were carefully guarded, as Lieutenant Jenkins
remembered, "We took care of our tools like gems." The Marines ran short
of sandbags, so discarded powder cans from the coastal artillery guns
were filled with dirt and used in their place. Bottles were filled with
gasoline to make "Molotov cocktails," to be dropped over cliffs on the
Japanese. Empty gasoline drums were filled with dirt and rock and set up
as tank traps on trails leading from the beach. Each position was
carefully camouflaged for protection and dummy positions were also
constructed to attract enemy fire.
Marines of Company B located Army aircraft bombs, and
wooden chutes were constructed to drop the bombs on landing areas. A
second line of defense and reserve positions were also built behind the
front line beach defenses, with the hope of eventual reinforcement.